Papasavvas was the 2020 Stars Championship Series Mini Champion and the Motorsports Country Club of Cincinnati (MCC) Pro Am Karting Championship Mini Champion on the Kart racing circuit. He also ranked Top 10 in two other racing categories. We first talked with Evagoras after he was named Junior Driver of the Year at age 11 in December of 2019. He was already focused on his goal to become a professional Formula 1 driver and champion.
“The biggest thrill is racing. No matter what happens, racing is the biggest thrill,” Evagoras stated then. “My goal is to be a Formula 1 driver and win a championship. I will keep working to get to that goal.”
His work toward that goal keeps him busy racing year round. The coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic put a wrench in the start of the Kart Racing season in 2020, but the travel and laps around multiple tracks have been fast and furious since they got going again in May 2020.
He raced in New Castle, Indiana, Wisconsin, Pittsburgh, North Carolina, Las Vegas and during January and February in Florida.
“That’s the thing about racing, there’s never an off-season,” said Papasavvas. “In January, we were racing in Florida. Over here, it’s too cold in January. Every part of the year there is some place where there are good conditions to race. That’s where we all go.”
It’s paying off for Papasavvas. In early April, Jay Howard Driver Development (JHDD) announced Evagoras Papasavvas joined the team’s driver development academy program. The program will provide the Loveland youth valuable time in the driver’s seat of open wheel race cars steering toward his open wheel racing debut in the near future. It is the big change for the young Loveland Kart racing driver who has been coached this far by his father Nektarios Papasavvas.
“He has been accepted to the Jay Howard Driver Development Academy,” said Nektarios. “It is a driver development program specifically to prepare him for open wheel racing into the path toward Indy. It is transitioning from Karts to cars. We’ve already done three days of testing.”
Team Owner Jay Howard is an experienced race car driver with extensive experience at all levels of motorsport, from the lower ranks of karting all the way up to the NTT INDYCAR Series. He started the JHDD team for the express purpose of identifying and developing the best young talent. Howard is excited about accelerating Papasavvas’ development ahead of his entering the right series for his professional race driving career as he comes of age.
“Evagoras has been testing with us in F4, and he has been doing a fantastic job,” said Howard. “He just keeps getting better and better with every lap. It’s now got to the point where we wanted to put in place a proper program for him to get up-to-speed prior to being old enough to compete. It’s encouraging to see him and his family taking the appropriate steps to be as well prepared as possible. His approach has been fantastic.”
At 13, he’ll be teamed up with JHDD for an extensive testing/training program logging laps in F4 U.S. machinery on multiple venues throughout the year. At the end of his 2021 driver development program, the plan is for the Papasavvas family and team owner Jay Howard to evaluate all prospective testing and racing options available to him for the 2022 season. He turns 14 on Christmas Day 2021 – in time for the start of the 2022 F4 racing season.
I’m excited to see just how much progress we can make with the young lad this year,” Howard said. “From there, we will have a lot more data to work with as we evaluate options for 2022.”
Joining the Jay Howard Driver Development team takes Evagoras to the next level of racing. Think of it, this is a 13 year old who is not yet of age in the United States to legally obtain a driver’s license. He’s been winning races driving karts at first with a maximum speed of about 50 mph. He advanced to race karts at a little over 70 mph. He tested with the JHDD team in open wheel F4 cars and drove at speeds reaching 125 mph! Then Evagoras received the news he was accepted into the JHDD academy program.
“It was great,” said Papasavvas. “That’s when I realized now I have a chance at becoming a professional race car driver.”
Remember this is the same young man who, at almost 12 years old, confidently stated his goal to not only become a Formula 1 driver, but also win a Formula 1 championship. Short of two years later, Evagoras Papasavvas seems comfortably grounded in the reality of this next step toward the chance of successfully achieving his racing goal. He explained when racing karts, a lot of people think of it as a hobby. The opportunity to join the Jay Howard team is not something the Papasavvas family was expecting or planning.
“For us it’s almost like it came out of nowhere,” Nektarios explained. “We were not planning on it. Then we ended up talking with Jay Howard. He made us think about his (Evagoras’) career.”
Howard pointed out Evagoras is at the right age if he wants to break from karts and move into a career path to Indy Cars. For him to pursue a professional race driver career in Indy Cars, he has to start now. The family thought about it, talked about it, Jay offered him the chance, so they tested for three days.
“From the first day of testing, Jay was happy with his (Evagoras’) performance,” said Nektarios. “It was kind of overwhelming.”
“When you’re in the car, it doesn’t feel as fast as a go kart,” Evagoras said. “A go kart is smaller so it feels like you’re going faster. You can feel more of the track and the vibrations. The car has suspension so it feels like it is not as quick, but it is much quicker.”
That’s when Howard offered the invitation to join JHDD for a formal development program for the rest of 2021. It will be an intense program which will include 15 days of on-track testing in the car. It could be as many as 20 days in the car on the track testing. Evagoras will continue to log miles on tracks in a JHDD team car during the remainder of 2021. He’ll also attend select race events with the team, getting first-hand insight into the operations of professional open wheel race teams at high profile events. He’ll have the opportunity to see exactly what it takes to be competitive.
It’s a lot more work. The cars do not have power steering and those high speed corners require a lot of strength. Evagoras says he has already started a new fitness program to add strength. It’s not all racing though. School remains priority one. He’s not getting out of school commitments, not even college when the time comes his dad affirmed. Engineering, and understanding engineering is a huge part of Indy Car and Formula 1 racing. Despite Wednesday departures for weekend races, Evagoras has been able to keep up (sometimes catch up) with his school work remotely. He continues to maintain A grades in nearly all of his classes. He credits his Loveland Middle School teachers for their full support and encouragement of his racing career.
The classroom changed for students all across the world in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. In some ways, the evolution of remote learning may have benefitted Evagoras. Yet, his classroom just changed again; this time to multiple race tracks with Jay Howard as his brand new teacher. Depending on how things go with his development, 2022 could find Evagoras Papasavvas racing open wheel cars in the first level on the path to Indy Car. It’s a start, but there are four levels on that path. As he said himself, he now has a chance at becoming a professional race car driver.
“Right now I want to go to Indy Car,” Evagoras said. “We’re in the right place because Indy Car is in America. To get to Formula 1 is all in Europe and Asia. I believe we made the right decision to do this with Jay. Jay has the depth of knowledge, skills, resources and approach to help me achieve my goal of racing in Indy Car someday. I have a lot to learn, and it is going to be a lot of hard work and sacrifices. I can’t wait to start this next chapter with Jay and his amazing crew. I want to get to Indy Car.”
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