Deagen Fairclough, wearing a race suit, sits in a blue racecar with a yellow stripe in the lower corner and ROKiT Racing Star and University of Bolton branding around the cockpit. His arms are on the sides of the car and he is looking out to his right, slightly angled towards the camera.

Fairclough goes from esports to British F4: ‘To be in a mini F1 car is just insane’

The extremely high costs of single-seater racing are no secret. They have forced some drivers to take another route within the sport or put down the gloves altogether. Fortunately, there are other ways that drivers with low budgets can complete a season of single-seater racing. F1 Feeder Series spoke with Deagen Fairclough, a driver with the skills to win a fully funded season of British F4 for 2023. 

By Tom Evans

The step up from karts to cars is one of the most crucial steps in any young racing driver’s career, with most who are aiming for Formula 1 jumping into one of the national Formula 4 single-seater championships. However, Fairclough took a less traditional route for his first year of car racing, in which he embarked on a UK–based junior saloon car racing series. 

“We entered the Junior Saloon Car Championship scholarship, mostly for the experience and a fun day out. But we actually ended up winning it, which I still can’t believe to this day. Myself and my family aren’t super wealthy or anything, we come from a working-class background.”

First seasons in racing can always be a mixed experience, as drivers learn a new car and develop their racecraft. “Before the season started, I was learning and practising a manual gearbox in my dad’s van on the driveway! As with motorsport, there are always going to be ups and downs throughout the year, but towards the end of the season, it started going really well,” Fairclough says. “The first season was actually quite successful.”

An unusual step up to single-seaters

After finishing fifth in the 2021 BRSCC Fiesta Junior Championship with nine wins, seven poles and 13 fastest laps, Fairclough embarked on the 2022 ROKiT Racing Star esports competition. Across five rounds of online racing, entrants, split into male and female categories, competed to win a fully funded 2023 British F4 drive. “Winning it was definitely my main goal,” Fairclough says about his initial ambitions for the competition. 

“It’s everyone’s dream to get into those big series. I put so many hours of testing in order to be competitive, and it paid off. I knew with enough time and dedication I could do well and have the chance to win, and I did. Winning that has changed both mine and my parents’ lives. Even to be in a mini F1 car is just insane to me.”

Testing, testing, testing

Fairclough, like most drivers, has been testing ahead of the 2023 season. His first taste of the Tatuus machinery came at British F4’s busy two-day test for new drivers at Snetterton Circuit, in which over 20 drivers partook. 

“Testing went incredibly well,” Fairclough says. “To be up there fighting for the top lap times was brilliant. You’ve got people in there like Louis Sharp, who have done a full season in F4 already, so it was a good sign to see straight away.

“I’m going to be honest, I wasn’t super consistent. I never really got a full lap together. But I know that complete lap is there, and with a few more test days, I can definitely be fighting for the top spots.”

2023 pressure and expectations

Though returning drivers have an advantage in experience, several newcomers have made strong impressions on the British F4 field, including Matthew Rees, who took the 2021 drivers’ championship with an impressive four wins and ten podiums. Fairclough has much the same ambition for his own debut season in 2023.

“I’m a racing driver. My mentality is going to be fighting at the front. If you put in the hard work and dedication towards it, I believe you can,” he tells F1 Feeder Series.

“There are not super high expectations for myself and the whole team. However, I have had the advantage of being in the industry since I was five years old, which has helped me to pick up some crucial skills. It is definitely going to be difficult to beat drivers who have already done a season, but I feel like with a few more test days and dedication, you can be up there.”

Monica Boulton Ramos and Deagen Fairclough hold black and white posters with their names and the text "ROKiT Racing Star F4 esports competition: WINNER" written on them. They hold trophies in their right hands as a shower of confetti falls in the foreground.
Deagen Fairclough (right) was one of two winners of the 2022 ROKiT Racing Star esports competition alongside Monica Boulton Ramos | Credit: British F4

There are a host of challenges that come with stepping up from club-level motorsport to a spot on the support series for the UK’s biggest racing championship, the British Touring Car Championship. Fairclough, though, is confident that this added pressure won’t affect him very much in 2023.

“I actually cope really well under pressure. When you’re zoned in, you don’t notice the crowds or the massive ITV audience, but it will be great to have a much busier paddock.”

There may be much bigger audiences watching Fairclough if he progresses further in motorsport. But for now, he’s just looking to take things step by step.

“We’re just going to see how the season goes. We haven’t got any plans, but what comes along comes along. Lots of things can change in racing, but I’ll keep working hard towards an end goal.”

Header photo credit: Racing Star

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