Having grown up in the culinary institution that is Ballymaloe, Formula 4 racing driver Lucca Allen might have been pre-destined towards a kitchen apron than the car racing attire he dons nowadays. With no family ties to the world of motor racing, the 16-year-old son of Darina Allen jettisoned football, hockey, and rugby for the allure of the race track.
“Since I was about three, I’ve been wearing a helmet and a Ferrari racing suit around the house. I always went to the local pub with my Dad who has been watching Formula 1 for 20 plus years now, he was always a Ferrari fan, especially in the Eddie Irvine era.”
That was the catalyst for Lucca speeding his way around the local track in Watergrasshill.
“When I started karting at the age of nine, it was kind of more of a hobby, I was doing it because I loved it and that reason only.”
Such was his nascent talent, however, that the pastime soon became a vehicle for success, with Munster and Irish Karting championships annexed.
Such accolades were suggestive of the teenager’s talent and a move to the Formula 4 ranks was always likely, with Allen ultimately deciding to race in the British Championship. Like a racehorse stepping up in grade, the rise to the higher level demands a period of adjustment and Lucca is honest in his evaluation of that change.
F1 has always been my dream and still is, so in order to do that, F4 seemed like the best step up from karting. The transition has been tough but the best 18 months of my life.
"Coming from Irish karting to the the F4 stage was a massive step but I feel like I have handled it quite well so far.”
The British Formula 4 championship has long been a breeding ground for future Formula 1 champions, with Irvine and Jenson Button former winners. Having found his feet at F4 level, Allen recently switched his allegiance to the 10-round South East Asia FIA F4 Championship and his impact has been immediate.
Driving under the banner of Mauritius GP, the Shanagarry man’s two victories at Thailand’s Buriram International Circuit earlier this month brought his season tally of wins to four, while further increasing his Championship lead.
His scintillating early-season form has left his rivals in little doubt of his arrival — the gauntlet has well and truly been laid down by the Cork youngster. Away from the track, a number of fragments must knit together to enable drivers to take up their grid position and Allen admits one element has proven to be particularly challenging.
“Sponsorship can get very stressful, it’s still not at all easy. Luckily my Dad is very good at that side of things and he works extremely hard to get sponsorship to keep me on track. You hope every year will get easier and it will all be worth it in the end.”
Having that pressure lifted allows the young driver to focus on himself, ensuring he is in peak physical condition, an element he believes is imperative given a 10th of a second can make all the difference. “Being fit and strong enough is 50% of it, it is really important.
"During the week I train twice a day, once in the morning before school and again after school before study. Usually I level it out 50/50 with cardio and weights. On weekends I tend to train once or twice over the two days.”
So what exactly do rest days entail? “I have a small simulator which links to my PS4 so I tend to pass a few hours on that when I’m at home, it’s usually just for enjoyment, occasionally
I would try to learn the layout of a track but it’s so different to real life that I don’t like to take too much from it.
Living life in the fast lane and racing overseas means Allen is often on the move, at race tracks and living out of hotel rooms. However, he is wise to the importance of completing his academic education — a safety buffer should the racing not work out in the long run.
“I’m in boarding school in Newtown in Waterford and although racing is my priority and takes up much of my time, I’m in fifth year now and doing the senior cycle so I try to keep on top of my work to the best of my ability.
“Thankfully the school is very supportive about it.”
Prior to a race, the team’s focus is on ensuring the driver has the best possible car in which to race. For that reason, it is key for a driver to have a strong relationship and open dialogue with the members of his garage. With those behind him working on the car, he can concentrate on race preparation, a routine which commences long before the lights go out on race-day.
“I like to get focused on the Monday, go through my notes, watch videos, eat the right things and think about my objectives. I tend not to train too hard on a race week, aside from maybe just a light run on the Monday or Tuesday.
“Before a race I like to listen to music to get me in the zone and read over my track notes.
“After a race weekend I then write a detailed report on my fastest lap, that includes every breaking point, apex point and turn in point, everything I can possibly think of to get me prepared for the next time I go to that track. I see everyone in F1 and other top levels of motorsport and know how hard they have worked to get there. F1 has always been my dream, and it remains so.”