VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Hunter Yeany, a 15 year old from Virginia Beach, was crowned the 2020 Formula 4 United States Championship Powered by Honda season champion, after a dominating performance on the track.
Hunter, the son of Rob Yeany, a 1989 Clarion-Limestone graduate and Nicole (Kennedy) Yeany, a 1996 Clarion Area and 2001 Clarion University of Pennsylvania graduate, was crowned United States Champion on the last weekend of October. The Velocity Racing Development rookie, actually clinched the title four rounds early, but the championship wasn't official until the final results from the penultimate F4 event was posted.
Hunter is receiving high praise from those involved in the circuit. Sydney Davis, SCCA Pro Racing (the pro racing division of the Sports Car Club of America) General Manager said, "Hunter was a fantastic addition to our U.S. F4 Championship driver line up this year. He showed maturity and race craft far beyond his years. I can't wait to see how his career flourishes next year in FR Americas and beyond."
Daniel Mitchell, Owner-Velocity Racing Development stated, "Having worked with many different drivers across the world, some in F1 right now and others in many forms of professional racing, I can confirm that Hunter Yeany at this age (15 years old) and experience level is one of the very best."
Euan Hankey, McLaren driver shared, "Having been a professional race car driver and driver coach over the last 11 years, I have been lucky enough to coach and mentor some incredible drivers, including George Russell (Williams F1 driver), Charles Leclerc (Ferrari F1 driver) just to name a few. Having worked with Hunter for the last 18 months for me, he is at that elite caliber and has the potential."
In garnering the 2020 championship, Hunter set a new world record as he became the youngest driver to earn Federation Internationale de l`Automobile (FIA) F4 title. With the championship, Hunter receives a scholarship valued at $230,000 to graduate into Formula Regional Americas Championship Powered by Honda for the 2021 season.
About the move up and the scholarship, Hunter stated, "FR Americas is the next step in the Formula 1 ladder. It consists of drivers from North, South, and Central America.
"The scholarship I was awarded for the U.S. F4 Championship was a free lease on a FR Americas FR from Ligier Automotive, a free lease on the Honda HPD racing motor from Honda HPD, SCCA Pro provide fully paid entries for the FR season and Hankook Motorsport provides free tires for the season," Hunter said. "This is the best prize package anywhere in the world now and a huge help to my family."
Hunter's parents were both involved in athletics. Rob played football and pole vaulted for the Lions, while Nicole ran track and cheered for the Bobcats. Rob a former U.S. Navy SEAL, is part owner of The Osen-Hunter Group, a defense contracting and security company.
When asked about his his grandparents and siblings and other relatives, Hunter responded, "My Grandma and Grandpa Yeany still live out on Waterson Road by the C-L school, and my Grandma and Grandpa Kennedy live in Virginia Beach. Almost all my relatives live in Clarion, or in the surrounding areas. I have two sisters. Brooke is 13 and Addison is 10."
Family has been very important in Hunter's journey.
"I'd definitely like to thank my parents and all my relatives that have supported me," Hunter said.
Hunter offered a description about this style of racing.
"There are generally four types of motorsports that most people know of, NASCAR which is a closed wheel stock car (think fenders), open wheel which represents F1 and Indy Car, drag racing (straight line), and dirt track (sprint cars).
"The route I'm taking is the Open Wheel route. My goal is to be the next American F1 champion. The last person to accomplish that was Mario Andretti in 1978. Formula driving only takes place on road and street courses. Formula motorsport has always been considered a European sport. Most drivers are from Europe and the majority of the successful ones have been European, Schumacher, Hamilton, Fernando Alonso, etc etc. Right now there are no Americans drivers in F1 at all."
How did the Yeany family get involved in the sport?
"I got into racing at a local Virginia Beach indoor kart rink. I went there just for fun on Saturday mornings with my dad. There we found out about a new professional kart track in Mooresville, North Carolina and we went and tried it out.
"I was amazed at how many kids there were racing, and I was hooked. I started kart racing around 10, but most of the other kids started around 6 years old. The competition was incredibly good. GoPro Motorplex is the home track to multiple karting World Champions, and National Champions. My karting journey was rough to say the least, but I made lots of friends and definitely found a passion for racing."
The trip to the top wasn't easy though.
"My journey into racing definitely didn't start how I pictured it. The kids who race go karts take their sport just as seriously as any other sport," Hunter said. "Because I started late in the sport, I struggled to get on the podium at all. Competing against kids who had 4-5 years' experience on me wasn't easy. Over my three years of karting, I think I only placed in the top three two times. But I always had speed, I just needed better race craft. I also don't think I ever felt really safe traveling up to 75 mph in a kart with no seat belts with other kids."
But then things changed, in a very good way. Hunter said, "When I turned 12, my dad met a British formula engineer named Daniel Mitchell. Dan had a lot of experience in Europe coaching and transitioning karting kids into race cars and had worked with many kids that are currently in the upper levels of Indy Car and Formula 1. Dan had just moved to Florida to work with a race team and approached my father about putting me in a race car.
"I continued karting, and a year later Dan visited our home in Virginia Beach to discuss me racing in Formula 4. A couple months later at the age of 13-and-a-half, I took my first ride in a Formula 4 race car."
There was one obstacle left.
"Our goal was to have me prepared to win in my rookie season at the age of 15," Yeany said. "The age requirement is 15 for the U.S. F4 Championship, the average age is around 19. But due to the start date of the race season this year, I was required to get an age waiver, because I was still 14. Luckily, we received the waiver."
And thanks to some great work by those in charge, Hunter was able to complete his historic season.
"Covid-19 changed the season dramatically at the beginning of the year. Many events were canceled and ultimately had to be rescheduled, but the SCCA Pro people did an outstanding job getting all the race weekends in and the season completed," Hunter said.
The various tracks where Hunter competed this season include: Mid-Ohio Race way in Lexington, Ohio; Virginia International Raceway in Danville, Virginia; Barber Motorsport Park in Leeds, Alabama; Sebring International Raceway in Sebring, Florida; Miami-Homestead Raceway in Homestead, Florida; and Circuit of the Americas, Austin, Texas.
Hunter said, "I only raced F4 five out of the six race weekends. I wrapped up the championship at Homestead and petitioned the SCCA pro to let me race FR for the last race weekend. I did and I placed 4th in the final race."
Story submitted by Dave McClaine of clarionsportszone.com