In our latest interview, we speak to GB3 championship leader, Zak O’Sullivan about life in GB3, graduating up the motorsport ladder and how his nickname of ‘Rain Man’ came about.
At just 16 years-old, O’Sullivan has already proven himself as one of the UK’s rising stars of motorsport after quickly working his way up to GB3 (formerly British F3), where he currently holds a 108 point lead with two rounds left of the season.
In this interview, he speaks candidly about his inspiration for becoming a racing driver, climbing up the racing ladder after making his single-seater debut in 2019 and how he is known as ‘Rain Man’ amongst his motorsport peers.
Who inspired you to want to become a racing driver?
O’Sullivan: “No one in particular, my dad had always watched F1 when I was growing up and naturally I watched along with him from time to time.
“This was around 2005-2006, so I guess you could say I was a Schumacher fan when him and Alonso were duking out for world titles.”
You began karting at just nine years-old and quickly was nicknamed ‘Rain Man’ following strong success at grassroot level. What was it like progressing through the karting ranks and enjoying junior success before stepping up to proper racing cars?
O’Sullivan: “I struggled a bit initially in karting, purely because as a family we were clueless to how everything worked. Even at such a young level everyone was so professional.
“Once we’d learnt our ways, the success started to follow and I began to win races which was a really positive step.”
2019 saw you graduate into Ginetta Junior Championship where you finished second in your rookie season. Having graduated through karting, how different did you find the step up into the world of closed cockpit racing as you finished vice-champion in your rookie season?
O’Sullivan: “It was a challenge to get to grips with the weight transfer and relative lack of grip compared to a go kart.
“The main aim of doing Ginetta Juniors was to save money by avoiding another year of karting, and also to learn as much race craft as I could in car before stepping up to F4.”
Last season saw you indeed make the move to British F4 where you narrowly missed out on the title by four points. How tough was it to lose out on another title for a second consecutive rookie season in a new series after rain caused half-points to be awarded in the season finale despite taking victory?
O’Sullivan: “It was a tough way to lose the title, especially considering how hard of a fight it was.
“At the time I was very irritated, however on the Monday after the race, I was at Carlin’s factory doing a seat fit for the GB3 car to switch my focus onto that.”
This season saw you move to GB3 where you have been dominant and currently hold a 108 point lead in the Championship. After suffering title heartache in last two seasons, what has it been like to dominate this season so far to put yourself on the verge of the title?
O’Sullivan: “Its a weird one, considering the DNF’s I’ve had I wouldn’t expect to be leading by this much going into Oulton, but I’m still content with the job I’ve done so far.
“As a team/driver combination we have been on average the most consistent and fastest, and that’s what really matters.”
You have raced with Carlin in the last two seasons who have a history of taking drivers to F1 and IndyCar. Looking ahead to the future, what are your plans for next season and how much would it mean to eventually reach F1?
O’Sullivan: “FIA F3 would be the logical step after GB3, and regards making it to F1, it would essentially be living a dream. However its going to be incredibly tough to make it there.”
Returning to your nickname of ‘Rain Man’, how did you receive that nickname and how different have you found single-seater racing in the wet compared to in karting?
O’Sullivan: “It came about from a race in the wet with slicks in Belgium in 2015. It torrentially rained on lap 1 and left all the drivers on slicks. I ended up winning the race by 36 seconds if I remember correctly.
“Rain in cars was much more difficult than in karting. Braking is incredibly tricky, and you’re constantly managing wet tyres that are always trying to overheat on the tread blocks.”
Recent seasons have seen the emergence of drivers openly adopting various strategies of having fun away from the racetrack from gaming to following alternative sports. What is your favourite way of relaxing when out of the cockpit?
O’Sullivan: “For me, when I’m not studying, its mainly a bit of sim racing and gaming. Although pretty common for kids of my age, I find it the easiest way of relaxing and ironically taking my mind off racing.”
Finally, what advice would you give young motorsport fans about life in karting and making that graduation into higher motorsport categories?
O’Sullivan: “Don’t be afraid early on in your career In karting to jump to a very challenging level when you might think you’re not ready.
“In my opinion its the best and quickest way to learn, and if you struggle to perform, you know that you’re competing against some of there best for that discipline.”