Hunter Yeany, Son Of Area Natives, Crowned Formula 4 US Champion, Sets World Record As Youngest Driver To Earn FIA F4 Title (Posted 11/05/20)
(All images are contributed) Above: Hunter with the “Rookie of the Year” award.
Hunter Yeany, a 15 year old from Virginia Beach, was crowned the 2020 Formula 4 United States Championship Powered by Honda season champion, after a dominating performance on the track.
Hunter, the son of Rob Yeany, a 1989 Clarion-Limestone graduate and Nicole (Kennedy) Yeany, a 1996 Clarion Area and 2001 Clarion University of Pennsylvania graduate, was crowned United States Champion on the last weekend of October. The Velocity Racing Development rookie, actually clinched the title four rounds early, but the championship wasn’t official until the final results from the penultimate F4 event was posted.
Hunter is receiving high praise from those involved in the circuit. Sydney Davis, SCCA Pro Racing (the pro racing division of the Sports Car Club of America) General Manager said, “Hunter was a fantastic addition to our U.S. F4 Championship driver line up this year. He showed maturity and race craft far beyond his years. I can’t wait to see how his career flourishes next year in FR Americas and beyond.”
Daniel Mitchell, Owner-Velocity Racing Development stated, “Having worked with many different drivers across the world, some in F1 right now and others in many forms of professional racing, I can confirm that Hunter Yeany at this age (15 years old) and experience level is one of the very best.”
Euan Hankey, McLaren driver shared, “Having been a professional race car driver and driver coach over the last 11 years, I have been lucky enough to coach and mentor some incredible drivers, including George Russell (Williams F1 driver), Charles Leclerc (Ferrari F1 driver) just to name a few. Having worked with Hunter for the last 18 months for me, he is at that elite caliber and has the potential.”
In garnering the 2020 championship, Hunter set a new world record as he became the youngest driver to earn Federation Internationale de l`Automobile (FIA) F4 title. With the championship, Hunter receives a scholarship valued at $230,000 to graduate into Formula Regional Americas Championship Powered by Honda for the 2021 season.
About the move up and the scholarship, Hunter stated, “FR Americas is the next step in the Formula 1 ladder. It consists of drivers from North, South, and Central America.
“The scholarship I was awarded for the U.S. F4 Championship was a free lease on a FR Americas FR from Ligier Automotive, a free lease on the Honda HPD racing motor from Honda HPD, SCCA Pro provide fully paid entries for the FR season and Hankook Motorsport provides free tires for the season. This is the best prize package anywhere in the world now and a huge help to my family.”
Hunter’s parents were both involved in athletics. Rob played football and pole vaulted for the Lions, while Nicole ran track and cheered for the Bobcats. Rob a former U.S. Navy SEAL, is part owner of The Osen-Hunter Group, a defense contracting and security company.
And his grandparents and siblings and other relatives? “My Grandma and Grandpa Yeany still live out on Waterson Road by the C-L school, and my Grandma and Grandpa Kennedy live in Virginia Beach. Almost all my relatives live in Clarion, or in the surrounding areas. I have two sisters. Brooke is 13 and Addison is ten.
Family has been very important in Hunter’s journey, “I’d definitely like to thank my parents and all my relatives that have supported me”
Hunter offered this description about this style of racing. “There are generally 4 types of Motorsport that most people know of, NASCAR which is a closed wheel stock car (think fenders), Open Wheel which represents F1 and Indy Car, Drag Racing (straight line), and Dirt track (sprint cars).
“The route I’m taking is the Open Wheel route. My goal is to be the next American F1 champion. The last person to accomplish that was Mario Andretti in 1978.
“Formula driving only takes place on road and street courses. Formula motorsport has always been considered a European sport. Most drivers are from Europe and the majority of the successful ones have been European, Schumacher, Hamilton, Fernando Alonso, etc etc. Right now there are no Americans drivers in F1 at all.”
How did the Yeany family get involved in the sport? “I got into racing at a local Virginia Beach indoor kart rink. I went there just for fun on Saturday mornings with my dad. There we found out about a new professional kart track in Mooresville, North Carolina and we went and tried it out.
“I was amazed at how many kids there were racing, and I was hooked. I started kart racing around 10, but most of the other kids started around 6 years old. The competition was incredibly good. GoPro Motorplex is the home track to multiple karting World Champions, and National Champions. My karting journey was rough to say the least, but I made lots of friends and definitely found a passion for racing.”
The trip to the top wasn’t easy though. “My journey into racing definitely didn’t start how I pictured it. The kids who race go karts take their sport just as seriously as any other sport.
“Because I started late in the sport, I struggled to get on the podium at all. Competing against kids who had 4-5 years’ experience on me wasn’t easy. Over my 3 years of karting, I think I only placed in the top 3, two times. But I always had speed, I just needed better race craft. I also don’t think I ever felt really safe traveling up to 75 mph in a kart with no seat belts with other kids.”
But then things changed, in a very good way. Hunter said, “When I turned 12, my dad met a British formula engineer named Daniel Mitchell. Dan had a lot of experience in Europe coaching and transitioning karting kids into race cars and had worked with many kids that are currently in the upper levels of Indy Car and Formula 1. Dan had just moved to Florida to work with a race team and approached my father about putting me in a race car.
“I continued karting, and a year later Dan visited our home in Virginia Beach to discuss me racing in Formula 4. A couple months later at the age of 13½, I took my first ride in a Formula 4 race car.”
There was one obstacle left, “Our goal was to have me prepared to win in my rookie season at the age of 15. The age requirement is 15 for the U.S. F4 Championship, the average age is around 19. But due to the start date of the race season this year, I was required to get an age waiver, because I was still 14. Luckily, we received the waiver.”
And thanks to some great work by those in charge, Hunter was able to complete his historic season. “Covid-19 changed the season dramatically at the beginning of the year. Many events were canceled and ultimately had to be rescheduled, but the SCCA Pro people did an outstanding job getting all the race weekends in and the season completed.”
The various tracks where Hunter competed this season include: Mid-Ohio Race way in Lexington, Ohio; Virginia International Raceway in Danville, Virginia; Barber Motorsport Park in Leeds, Alabama; Sebring International Raceway in Sebring, Florida; Miami-Homestead Raceway in Homestead, Florida; and Circuit of the Americas, Austin, Texas.
Hunter said, “I only raced F4 5 out of the 6 race weekends. I wrapped up the championship at Homestead and petitioned the SCCA pro to let me race FR for the last race weekend. I did and I placed 4th in the final race.”
To grasp how extraordinary Hunter’s historic Rookie season was, consider his 2020 F4 statistics: 20 races with 19 times on the podium; eleven – 1st place finishes; six – 2nd place finishes; two – 3rd place finishes; 5 – pole positions; and three track records.
Also consider that Hunter was the first 15 year old to win the U.S. F4 Championship and that, at just fifteen years of age, he broke the World record for the youngest ever FIA F4 champion of all time.
For Hunter this is a great start, on the progression up the ladder leading to Formula 1, which looks something like this:
Step 1 – F4 Championship (Regional Championships, U.S., Germany, Italy, Mexico, Spain, France all have one, and there are many others) 12 super license points for 1st.
Step 2 – FR Championship (Regional Championships, FR Americas is North, South, Central America and Canada, FR Europe, FR Asia etc.) 18 super license points for 1st.
Step 3 – FIAF3 Championship (World F3) Just as it says, the whole world. 40 super license points.
Though the Yeany’s live in Virginia Beach, Hunter has to split his time with a couple of other locations. “I currently live in Virginia Beach, but I spend a lot of time in Mooresville, NC and in Alpharetta, Georgia.
And as for schooling, Hunter’s studies are provided by the circuit. “I attend an online school called Ontrack. This school is for kids in professional motorsport and it allows me to practice and attend races while keeping up on my studies.”
Proud father, Rob shared this, “I couldn’t be prouder of Hunter’s accomplishments. I do not think people realize the amount of training and dedication that goes into what he’s trying to accomplish and what he’s decided to give up as a kid, in order to chase his dreams.
“I’m most proud of the fact that he remains humble no matter how much success he has. Comments from people at the track include how mannerly he is, as well as accolades of his driving ability. That truly makes me proud as his dad.
“What a season it’s been! I can’t begin to tell you how proud I am of this boy. The hard work he puts in day in and day out; what he’s given up as a kid to chase his dreams is incredible. As a mom, “his dream” was my worst fear. But Hunter’s passion and dedication has won me over and I can’t do anything but smile at his accomplishments this year and support his dream.”
(Congratulations to Hunter, Rob, Nicole, Brooke and Addison, Grandma and Grandpa Yeany, Grandma and Grandpa Kennedy and the whole Yeany/Kennedy clan on Hunter’s astounding accomplishment!!! Hunter you make us all Clarion Proud!!!!)