The E1 Championship is just around the corner, with Season Zero commencing this 19 November. Before its official flag-off, we managed to spend time with some of the prolific drivers that will be participating in the inaugural e-racing championship.
Introducing Daniel Rein Ooi and Kalen Chin from BlackWolf Racing!
The two drivers hail from Singapore and Australia and are aged 42 and 14 respectively. The dynamic duo make up a potent yin-yang composition: a seasoned IRL on-track driver complementing a prospective up and coming talent.
Daniel has seen his fair share of motorsports IRL since 2012, prior to encountering e-racing in 2016. “I only used it for practising tracks initially,” said Daniel. “Only recently due to the COVID pandemic that my eyes were opened to this growing phenomenon that is sim racing.” It was only during these past few months that Daniel really deep dived into the world of e-racing.
Kalen on the other hand has been behind a wheel prior to getting his actual drivers license! The young driver gave us some backstory of how motorsports came into his life, “I started driving for the very first time when I was 3 or 4, messing around on a wheel and rig setup my dad had at home.” This led to Kalen entering the world of go-karting, with him eventually starting sim racing at the age of 12. “My dad was the one that got me into sim racing. I honestly can’t recall how it all came to be, but he must’ve done something to get me into it haha.”
Both Daniel and Kalen met each other when they were in the karting scene. Fun fact: Kalen’s father used to be a fan of Daniel during his motorsports days when Kalen was much younger. The two would have friendly exchanges from time to time. "Over the last couple of months, I've actually been keeping a close eye on Kalen's progress in his e-racing activities, and realized that he has much promise and potential as a driver," said Daniel. BlackWolf Racing also conveniently has an academy to groom racers like Kalen to transition to IRL racing on the big tracks.
Kalen on the other hand, did do some research on BlackWolf Racing and found that the organization has focused efforts to transition drivers from karts to cars. "Seeing as my dad knew Daniel for a long time, and we've watched him in other races too, it just sounded like a great opportunity to race alongside together," said Kalen.
“Kalen was racing really well too at the time during the eRacing Grand Pix,” said Daniel. “When the E1 Championship popped up, the first thing that came to mind was Kalen.” Upon displaying an interest in participating, he got in contact with Kalen and his father and the rest was history. It was as if everything just seamlessly clicked into place
To be competing at such a young age, Kalen shared that leading a double-life as a student required finesse manoeuvring both on and off the track. “That’s a tough question. Between the two, I did focus a little bit more on my studies due to the lack of go-karting events this year. But normally I wouldn’t be that focused on studies I’d say haha.”
Daniel also has many obligations to juggle between to maintain this lifestyle. As the BlackWolf Racing team owner, he oversees day-to-day running and operations of its training academy and racing teams. Most of Daniel’s day would have already been taken up at this point, with barely any spare time to train on the simulator. He added that “I would maybe only be able to practise 1 to 2 hours a day on the sim tracks.” Daniel jokingly mentioned that his wife would give him an earful should he spend any time longer behind the wheel. Kalen cheekily added “I’m the complete opposite of Daniel haha. When school’s over, I’d come home, eat lunch and just get on the sim (racing rig) and just drive for the rest of the day.”
Just like any other craft, e-racing is something that requires continual routine practice. As such, there are times where drivers would want to step away from the track to rest and recharge. Daniel shared that he would disconnect from the driving wheel and spend time accompanying his wife shopping. Spending family time was a much-welcomed avenue to relax, not worrying about the next intricate corner to manoeuvre around.
Kalen, on the other hand, just can’t seem to step away from the track. He expressed that “I don’t really do anything else besides driving to be honest. Maybe I do watch some Netflix shows or YouTube videos from time to time, but other than that, I pretty much still spend my free time on the sim.”
“I am really inspired by Daniel Ricciardo,” said Kalen. “He’s Australian, I’m Australian, that feeling to be able to represent your country in motorsports is really something I want to do in the future. He’s a really good driver and an overall great guy. He’s always cheerful and never lets himself get down by setbacks.”
“For me, I used to follow the MotoGP scene a lot more back in the day,” said Daniel. It was only much later when he encountered the world of Formula 1. Upon watching various documentaries, Daniel encountered the legendary Brazillian driver, Ayrton Senna. “I unfortunately only came to know of Senna after his passing. I went on to watch his races and have actually watched his documentaries several times over. It still inspires me till today. I was really moved by his racing philosophies.”
In lieu of the upcoming E1 Championship, the two also shared their thoughts on the inaugural competition. Daniel expressed, “I look forward to keeping up with the young and fast racers as I’m not young myself haha. I’ll try to improve myself in terms of e-racing and try to have fun at the same time.” Kalen expressed his aim of finishing top 3 in the championship. “I also look forward to the E1 Championship growing bigger, to become a big part and staple competition in Asia sim racing.”
Like any other race, there are several worries and challenges that participants face during their journey to the finish line. “I feel that one of the most challenging parts of the E1 Championship would be learning more about e-racing in general,” said Daniel. “It really boils down to getting accustomed to the car, setup and so on.” As for Kalen, he felt that the biggest challenge would be his very own self. “I would sometimes not practise for something that I dislike, like a non-preferred map such as the Shanghai circuit for example,” said Kalen. “I am aware that I have to get in the right shape and mentality to practise for this.”
The dynamic duo had interesting rivals in their sights for this championship. “I look most forward to facing Daniel actually haha,” said Kalen. “It’s cool to be able to race against Daniel and have him as a teammate too. There’s also Yevan David from Stratos Motorsports, one of my closest friends, whose really quick in karting and sim racing. His teammate Naquib Azlan is also really quick and having them both in this championship is going to be exciting.” Daniel had reciprocated feelings, stating that “right now it would only be Kalen haha. I look up to him as my role model and the ideal person to challenge. Am actually really looking forward to both of us learning from each other in this championship.”
Like Daniel and Kalen, there are probably many others out there who wish to get behind the wheel one day themselves. The world of e-racing may require potent cornering but fret not as here are some words of advice they’d like to share.
“If you are new and starting out, focus on just getting used to the car and taking things slow at first,” said Kalen. “Once you’re confident with how that car handles, you can slowly push yourself to gradually improve from there.”
“As someone who is quite new to the scene as well, I’d say it would be best to start off with a slower car haha,” explained Daniel. “I personally made a mistake sticking to only driving cars I’ve touched in real life. When e-racing started taking off, I wasn’t used to the cars used then as I was much more accustomed to a slower speed. I would definitely suggest newcomers to explore everything and be versatile in whatever race and car thrown at them.”
Daniel expressed his heartfelt appreciation for his wife’s support throughout this entire motorsports journey. “She wasn’t very supportive initially due to the dangers that came with motorsports. But knowing that it was my passion, she still continued to support me. Am also thankful for my staff that helped me a lot when I wasn’t around during work tending to other urgent matters. Not too sure how many fans I have out there haha, but thank you for supporting us and the local motorsports scene.”
Kalen also expressed his immense gratitude towards his parents. “I would like to thank my father and mother for everything. They’ve sacrificed a lot of me, and I wouldn’t be here right now without their support. They have truly been my number one supporters. I would also like to thank those who tune in to watch my races when I stream them online!”
Be sure to catch BlackWolf Racing in action this 19 November onwards during the E1 Championship!