He talks of straights, corkscrews, white knuckles, free falls and double-apex hairpins. Not the usual lexicon for a 15-year-old kid, especially in a surf city like Ventura. But Nova Brown is not the usual 15-year-old kid. He’s a formula race car driver.
After surging through go-kart racing circuits, showing a poise and maturity well beyond his years, Brown and his family made the decision to transfer his skill set from karts to cars.
And though the young man is not yet old enough to even legally drive himself to the racetrack, the times of his most recent lapping sessions at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey have earned him a spot for a full season of regional racing in the Skip Barber Race Series this coming November — the largest open-wheel amateur championship in North America
“I’m surprised that for as long as he has been karting, how good he has become,” said Doug Fleming, of Fleming Racing Engines, who has assisted Brown during his two years of karting. “He’s a great listener, and he seems like he really wants it. . . . Lots of potential.”
Yet before he can compete in the series, Brown and his team, Morning Star Racing, will have to find about $100,000 in sponsorship funding by November. The funds will cover weekend raceway costs for maintenance, assigned mechanics, track fees and unforeseeable crash damage.
“We’re working a few deals right now, but nothing serious yet,” Brown said.
In the meantime, Brown has been behind the wheel, lapping at the Mazda Raceway, a highly technical track, learning about handling the revving engine of a formula car.
“The scariest part is making the transition from thinking you’re going fast at low speeds to actually going fast and thinking you’re going fast,” Brown said. Thus far, he has reached 112 miles per hour on a long straight, nearly double the top speed of his go-kart.
Whether or not Brown is aware of it, his outlook on racing has a philosophical edge to it, an almost zenlike approach to perhaps the loudest sport on earth. So when the young man speaks about racing, it’s hard not to find something deeper in his words.
“The speed can be a little deceptive at times,” Brown admitted, “but the way to get over that is by relaxing. If you don’t relax, you’re going to be tense and you’ll make stupid little mistakes that will make you spin.”
Raised in Ventura, Brown grew up surfing and playing seasonal sports like most kids his age. But these sports lacked connectivity with his father.
“My dad tried to find a way for us to really connect in a sport. Most other sports I was doing, he would sit back and watch me do it,” said Brown.
His father, James, had grown up around cars, attending races with his family during his youth. One day in 2008, he decided to take his son to Jim Hall Kart Racing School in Oxnard.
“Instantly, I loved it, and I kept wanting to go,” Brown recalled. That year, Brown received a kart for Christmas and immediately started competing in the now-defunct Santa Maria Kart Club. Though inexperienced compared to those already established in the Club, Brown placed second in the Club’s championship and soon escalated to a higher series, and continued to produce top results.
Then, in late 2010, Brown took the three-day racing school at Mazda Raceway with Skip Barber. Brown admitted being initially overwhelmed with the leap to formula cars, but quickly managed to cut seconds off his lapping times during practice sessions to qualify for the Skip Barber Formula Series later this year.
Now, with his dad working as his manager, support and mechanic, Brown has also teamed up with Townsend Bell, an Indy 500 and Formula One racer who recently launched a coaching program to help young drivers and teams maximize their sponsorship efforts.
So besides gaining sponsorships to compete in the upcoming formula series, Brown is busy thinking and living like a racer, consequently imparting wisdom beyond his years.
“My mindset in racing is, I’m always thinking how I’m going to take the corner and how it leads up to the next one,” he said.
And if he takes the corners the way he envisions, Brown will be barreling down the straights of the Formula One Racing Series.
“My ultimate goal is Formula One. It’s the top of the ladder, putting your skills up against the best. If you win at Formula One, you’ve accomplished a lot,” noted Brown.
His hope is to be racing in the GP 2, a formula series that is primary recruitment for Formula One, by the time he his 18, and to be racing in Formula One well before he is 25.
Nothing wrong with dreaming. As Brown added, “The key to being a good driver is the ability to look ahead.”