Sean Hudspeth once had current Formula One champion Max Verstappen’s number in his phone book. The two used to compete in the karting circuit.
“Sometimes I beat him and other times, he won,” Hudspeth shares.
But they lost touch when Verstappen changed his contact details and social media handles after entering the big league. Hudspeth rattles off the names of a few more notable drivers — Antonio Giovinazzi, Lance Stroll, Alex Albon — and says confidently that if he had the funding, he too would race in Formula One.
A day’s practice in an F1 car can cost up to a million Euros, and the only way to get better is to put in the hours. Unfortunately, Hudspeth knew his pockets weren’t deep enough. The young professional driver fell in love with racing, thanks to his late grandfather.
“He would teach me about racing lines and how to take a corner. We would watch the races, F1, 24 Hours of Le Mans and even MotoGP, together on TV,” the 28-year-old recalls fondly.
At 12, Hudspeth went karting for the first time with his friends at Kart World, a defunct track in Jurong with overgrown grass and karts stacked haphazardly at different corners. He emerged victorious and then returned time and time again to clock better times. A mechanic noticed Hudspeth’s rapid improvement and mentioned to his father that he had potential.
So the senior Hudspeth bought a second-hand race kart. In 2010, when Kartright Speedway opened the first competition-standard karting track in Singapore, Hudspeth naturally went there to train and compete. His kart used old tyres and a Rotax Max engine that was probably a decade older than his peers. But when it rained, Hudspeth shone.
“Rain always evens out the playing field because the driver’s skill comes more into play. I got podium finishes every time the track was wet,” he shares.
Money was tight, but the senior Hudspeth worked hard to give his son the platform his talent deserved. They would buy fuel from the petrol station because it was more expensive at the track. Instead of storing the kart at the racetrack, the duo kept it at home and strapped it on top of the car before heading down on practice and race days.
“We didn’t want to pay for storage,” Hudspeth says. To save cost, they also worked on the kart themselves instead of getting a mechanic. Their efforts paid off when a talent scout from Formula BMW recognised Hudspeth’s talents and offered him a scholarship.
“If it wasn’t for this, I would have never become a professional race driver,” he says. Hudspeth was 15 at the time — “old enough to get a racing licence but legally, not allowed to drive,” he chuckles.
From there, Hudspeth went through the paces, and moved from Asia to Europe. He found a spot in a prototype racing team and achieved multiple podium finishes, including third place in 2015 at 24 Hours of Zolder in Belgium. Then, at the end of that year, Hudspeth took over a racing seat in an Italian Porsche Carrera Cup team at the last minute from a client-student who dropped out due to work; he won that particular Imola race.
It’s been more than a decade, but Hudspeth is still dedicated to the grid. He’s racked up an enviable list of accolades and remains the only Singaporean to have won racing championships in Europe.
Along the way, Hudspeth received a Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, completed National Service and became an instructor with the Fiat Group, which counts Alfa Romeo, Ferrari and Maserati among its ranks.
This year, he’s hoping to compete in the European Le Mans Series, with the aim of qualifying for the granddaddy of all endurance races — 24 Hours of Le Mans — the world’s oldest active endurance racing event and part of the Triple Crown. Hudspeth bleeds patriotism. He wants to be involved with as many local brands as possible in his racing journey.
“I want to have this narrative of having Singapore on the podium. And I genuinely think I have what it takes to win 24 Hours of Le Mans,” proclaims Hudspeth.
When that happens, Verstappen might just drop him a congratulatory message.
Sean Hudspeth’s Unbiased Opinion
He swears that the new Maserati MC20 is “one of the best supercars around and a fantastic driver’s car”.
Hudspeth has spent a considerable amount of time in the cockpit, having driven it in Italy and Singapore. He’s piloted the car at both cruising and breakneck speeds, and is especially fond of the gearbox that’s nicely tuned and mated to the engine.
I was doubtful, naturally. But after Hudspeth took me for a joyride along South Buona Vista Road, known among local racing aficionados as gao zhup gao wan (Hokkien for “99 bends”), I finally understood why he was gushing over the new MC20. It truly represents a new era for Maserati.