Alex Crosbie: from rookie to national champion in two years
At just fifteen years-old, Invercargill’s Alex Crosbie has a unique story to tell regarding how he has gone from a Formula Ford rookie at the beginning of the 2020/21 season to New Zealand Formula Ford champion at the end of the 2021/22 season.
To get some background on the teenager, Crosbie came to Formula Ford racing with both a kartsport and speedway background. At the age of seven-years, he started his motorsport career in karting which he is still continuing to compete in today. Speedway has been part of his program since the age of 12-years and like kartsport, he continues to compete, currently in the Youth Saloons category (standard 1600cc salon cars).
So why the switch in 2020 to single seater racing and Formula Ford?
“Well, I saw them racing at Teretonga, (Invercargill) and wanted to give it a go,” commented Crosbie. “We bought a car (Van Diemen RF92) off Noel Atley. I hadn’t driven before this and thought it would be a good idea. Unfortunately, we got it at the start of the (Covid) lockdown so I had to wait before we could have a drive.”
It was a tough rookie 2020/21 South Island Formula 1600 Championship season for Crosbie in which he consistently completed all 18 races, finishing 11th overall and 9th in Class 2.
“It was a pretty good for the first season,” said Crosbie. “We didn’t really know what we were coming into. It was a matter of learning a new car with braking and gears plus all the tracks, getting used to racing an open wheeler compared to a tin-top and close racing with others. We didn’t really have anyone coaching us during that first season. We just went out and tried things.”
It must have gone well for the team as Crosbie then turned up on the grid at the beginning of the 2021/22 season in a brand-new Ray GR21 chassis.
“Mum and Dad wanted to get a new car and having seen some (Ray chassis) during the season they decided to get a Ray.
“The first season definitely gave me confidence. With a new car there was more to learn. We now had a lot of help from the Motorsport Solutions crew. They knew how to set up the car and if it was doing something wrong then they knew what to do. Adjusting tyre pressures, getting the setup right, especially in the wet were all things we hadn’t known what to do before.”
The difference from the previous season was like night and day. Crosbie went from being mid-pack in his first season to knocking on the door of a podium which came in the seventh race of the 2021/22 South Island series, admittedly at his home track at Invercargill.
“My first podium definitely gave me a confidence boost, knowing that I could get up there on the podium. It definitely helped.”
Standing on the podium now meant he was starting to hunt for race wins, which would eventually come. He finished the last six races of the South Island series all on the podium and this time third overall and second in Class 1.
After the South Island series, the focus turned to competing in the eight-race, two-round, 2022 New Zealand Formula Ford Championship.
“I thought it would be a good idea to start learning the North Island tracks with a view to racing there in the next season. We went pretty well at Taupo in the first round considering we had never raced there and hadn’t much practice on the Friday before the racing began.”
His consistency continued with four third placings at the Taupo International Motorsport Park. Heading back to the South Island for the final four races in Christchurch, Crosbie was third overall and still in touch with the top two, Zac Christensen and Liam Sceats, just 62-points behind.
“The aim for Ruapuna (Christchurch) was to keep in the top three. I knew that there would be a lot of competition and it went really well.
“I finished second in the first race then got my first win. That was definitely exciting and gave me the confidence not only to win but also to know that when in the lead I had the ability to defend.”
Both Christensen and Sceats suffered mechanical problems, in separate races, opening the door for Crosbie to take a shot at the overall title.
“Probably after the first three races and going into the finale I knew I had a chance. So, seeing Liam (Sceats) having a DNF was definitely a surprise.”
Finishing second behind Christensen was enough for Crosbie to clinch the 2022 NZ Formula Ford title.
What would his advice be to young rookies coming into Formula Ford?
“Probably it would be to give it a go and learn. Learn the tracks, follow and learn from other competitors. You don’t have to win it in the first season so take the time to learn before you give it (winning) a crack.”
And the difference between the Van Diemen RF92 and his Ray GR21?
“You can still have an older car, and some of them are very good, but a new chassis can be more consistent because nothing tends to break as much.”
And if you are new to Formula Ford racing this coming season then Crosbie is one you can still learn from as he expects to be back on the grid for the 2022/23 summer of racing.