16-year-old balances international competition and high-school education in pursuit of his dream.
At 16 years old, St. Louis, Missouri-native Spike Kohlbecker has driven farther – and faster – than most people ever will. A competitive kart racer since the age of 5, Kohlbecker recently transitioned to competitive open-wheel (Formula Ford/F1600) car racing and has been named a semi-finalist for the prestigious Team USA Scholarship.
Celebrating its 30th year, the Team USA Scholarship provides opportunities for talented young American race-car drivers at an early stage in their careers. The program covers the cost to represent the United States in two of the world’s largest and most competitive races held in the United Kingdom: the Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch and the Walter Hayes Trophy at Silverstone. The program also provides introductions to influential figures within motorsports who can offer valuable insight and contacts to assist these young drivers’ progress up the racing ladder.
Kohlbecker has already made the first cut from 10 candidates to 6 semi-finalists, with 2 finalists from the group of 6 to be selected later this summer.
Kohlbecker got his start in local kart racing at tracks such as the Gateway Kartplex at World Wide Technologies Raceway. Since 2010, he has racked up countless local, regional and national wins and has been a factory-sponsored kart driver for St. Louis-based Margay Racing, as well as a driving instructor for other ambitious young karters. Eager to expand his capabilities to include auto racing, Kohlbecker began racing Formula 1600 open-wheel, open-cockpit cars in 2018. Pursuing this new passion has taken him around the globe. Kohlbecker spent most of 2018 in Canada, where he scored multiple wins and numerous podium finishes. He then progressed to New Zealand where he scored many podium finishes. He now competes in the UK National Championship Series, where again he has scored multiple wins and is challenging for the UK National Championship. Kohlbecker is the first US driver to score wins in both the Canadian and UK Formula Ford National Series championship events, an especially impressive feat considering he is only 16 years old. His early success in open-wheel racing has not gone unnoticed in racing circles. Racing legends, officials, team owners and industry writers alike are singing his praises as a promising young talent.
Balancing academics and auto-racing aspirations
Participating in international racing competitions has made it impossible for Kohlbecker to have a traditional high-school experience, as he is often on the road for weeks – sometimes months – at a time. Seeking a way to continue his high-school education while competing abroad, Kohlbecker and his family found a viable option at Kirkwood High School through the Launch program – Missouri’s solution for course-access issues for school districts and families in need of flexible and personalized learning options. With the approval of – and in cooperation with – administrators and faculty, Kohlbecker became the first student in the state of Missouri to take the Launch online program internationally.
Kohlbecker is currently conducting his studies in the United Kingdom while racing in the Avon Tyres Formula Ford UK National Championship Series – all while successfully taking an accelerated course load.