Jaki Scheckter, the forgotten man of South African motor racing, could be on the verge of resurrecting a career that a couple of years ago showed so much promise. November 24 and could clinch a berth for a full season in the Formula 3000 world...
Jaki Scheckter, the forgotten man of South African motor racing, could be on the verge of resurrecting a career that a couple of years ago showed so much promise.
November 24 and could clinch a berth for a full season in the Formula 3000 world championship next year. The son of former multiple South African champion Ian and nephew of former world champion Jody, young Scheckter left this week for the United States before going to Spain for the Nordic test.
"I have not driven a race car of any description for two years, and have not been near a single seater for about three years," said Scheckter. "Before going to Spain I will be spending two days testing a Barber Dodge car and that will help me get my eye in again.
"The opportunity to get my racing career back on track is very exciting, and in my heart I know I have the ability to do well in Formula 3000."
After winning the Barber Dodge Series in the United States in1995 - and the Barber Dodge Scholarship Shootout and a 100 000 dollar scholarship - it looked as though Scheckter was a likely candidate to follow his father and uncle into Formula One. Early in 1996 he made a huge impression in three Indy Lights starts in the United States before sponsorship dried up and he was forced to return to South Africa.
A former South African Formula Ford champion and voted Motorsportsman of the Year by the South African Guild of Motoring Journalists in 1995, Scheckter's career took a turn for the worse in 1996 and 1997. After competing in the Stannic Group N championship in 1997 he faded from the scene.
"The cars were not all that competitive and I was never comfortable in saloons," said Scheckter. "Although I had offers from a number of Indy Lights teams the sponsorship I needed just wasn't there, and I sort of went into hibernation.
"The last two years have been very frustrating but now the chance to win a place on the Nordic team has cropped up, and I am determined to make the most of the opportunity."
And determination is a quality that is not lacking where Scheckter is concerned. Born with a hearing defect he has made light of his handicap and still has hopes of making it to Formula One.
"I know I can do well in F1," he said. "I just need the opportunity and Nordic could open the door for me."
Scheckter's father also has no doubts that the 25-year-old can still make it into Formula One. "I have always believed Jaki has the talent to be a successful Grand Prix driver," said Scheckter senior.
"Despite his handicap he has a feel for single seater racing cars, and he has never lacked for guts. The last two years have been very difficult for him, and he deserves a shot at making his dream come true."