Louis Foster: “The goal is to be in IndyCar in 2024”
It’s been a stellar year for Motorsport UK Academy athlete, Louis Foster.
Having moved his entire life ‘across the pond’ to America to pursue his IndyCar dream, the 19-year-old, originally from Hampshire, enjoyed championship success at the first attempt in the highly competitive IndyPro 2000 Series.
That earnt him a subsequent move to Indy Lights, the next step on the coveted ‘Road to Indy’, with the iconic Andretti team, bringing him one step closer to his goal of racing in IndyCar, the premier tier of American single-seater racing.
Foster, a graduate of both the ROKiT British F4 and GB3 Championships in the UK, has also been nominated as a finalist for the prestigious Aston Martin BRDC Autosport Award for the second time, alongside fellow Brits Jamie Chadwick, Luke Browning, and Ollie Bearman.
We took some time out to catch up with Louis from his new home in Los Angeles, after the biggest year of his career to-date.
Motorsport UK Q: “Louis, congratulations on a championship-winning campaign in IP2000. Talk us through the process of adapting to life ‘state-side’?
Louis Foster: “It’s my first year here in the States and it was quite a new experience to me to move away from my family. I live out here alone on the West Coast, it’s a seven or eight-hour difference, timewise.
“There’s a lot of things to adjust to, but at the end of the day, racing is racing wherever you are in the world. When it comes down to it, it’s still you and your engineering team working together to make a fast race car. For me, once we figured it out and hit our stride, it was pretty much plain sailing from there.
“There were a lot of challenges though, of course, with street courses and ovals. From the outside looking in, ovals look easy, but once you get into it, you realise there’s a lot more technicality to it. There’s a lot more than meets the eye, and they’re pretty scary, to be honest! It’s probably recently, the only time in a car I’ve been scared.
“But that’s all part of the challenge and they’re enjoyable to race. It’s made the year a lot more interesting and a lot more difficult in turn, which makes the success even sweeter.”
Q: “It’s not the path typically trodden by Brits rising through the single seater ranks. But it’s quite clear you’ve structured your career around this ambition of racing in IndyCar. Talk us through the journey so far…”
LF: “For me, karting was a fun weekend hobby. I went club racing maybe ten times a year, it was me, my brother and my Dad. It was nothing more than that. We won championships, sure, but they weren’t massive national or international titles, nothing like that. Nobody really knew me in karting, and I wasn’t really that good, either.
“Then we jumped into Ginetta Juniors. My first year was 2018, and my intention was to do three years and then maybe win the championship in my final year. But after my first year, I was rookie champion and just missed out on winning the overall championship. At that point, we realised there was a possible career route in this.
“The reason I went into F4, was because I couldn’t do anything else at that age, I was too young. If I’d been a year older, I have no idea where I’d be now. Perhaps I’d have raced in GT4.
“During F4, I kind of knew that Formula 1 wasn’t a realistic option. It’s a dream, of course, but there’s a difference between dreams and goals, which is what I see.
“So, I shifted my goal and my dream to race in IndyCar came from quite a young age, in GB3. The main reason for coming over here is the ladder system, with the ‘Road to Indy’. Nobody else is offering what they offer, with the scholarship money. This year I won over $600,000, and that sort of money is invaluable to me now with the step up to Indy Lights for next year.”
Q: “So, why IndyCar? What’s the fascination there, for you?”
LF: “In IndyCar, there are some great circuits, great cars, it’s extremely diverse. I find it a lot more enjoyable to watch than F1, and it’s a ‘spec car’, the only thing they can do to gain a competitive advantage is adjust the dampers. It just made a lot more sense to come to America.”
Q: “You’ve always adapted well to new cars, always moving on after a single season, and never finishing lower than third overall. What’s the secret?”
LF: “My approach has always been, whenever I enter anything new, that I’m a complete rookie. Especially here, I didn’t walk in with an ego. Pretty much everybody in America had no idea what I’d done before, or who I was, and vice-versa. I hadn’t raced them before, I didn’t know them, really.
“I had to learn everything. Every single race I went to, my first time out on track, apart from a few venues, was FP1. It was basically having to adapt really quickly, and I would say the biggest thing when adapting to something, whether it’s a car or a track, is preparation.
“I think a lot of drivers, especially in their younger years, tend to overlook preparation. But hitting the ground running is the most important thing, so pre-race I have a very rigorous routine of stuff I go through, whether it be the simulator, speaking to other drivers, looking through data, looking at video.
“So, I arrive at the track, and I know where my braking points are, what gear I need to be in and so on, all the specific details, at every corner around the lap. And once I put that into practice on track, I’m already at a very good point to be able to go even faster from there.
“But, having said that, to some extent a lot of being able to jump in a car and be fast is driver talent. I’m not approaching that with an ego, but you do have to just ‘get in and drive it’. You have to have the preparation, but when it comes to it, you do just have to drive it. It’s difficult to describe, there’s no formula.”
Q: “How much does your Dad [ex BTCC and British GT racer, Nick Foster] help, as a racing driver in his own right?”
LF: “Nobody’s ever asked me that! He’s done a lot of work with me behind the scenes, and developed my character massively. I look up to him, and I want to become what he has.
“It’s quite funny, really. When I first started racing, he was a bit of a coach to me, because at that point I was new, and he had done it for a few years, with BTCC, GTs and so on. So he would help me out, but then it kind of hit a switch, where I knew more than him about racing.
“So, he stopped trying to tell me what to do, because he realised he wasn’t as helpful in that regard. Now and again, he has some opinions which I take on board, but he’s super, super good at keeping my head on the ground
“A great example was this year at Indianapolis. I had the pace to win all three races, but was taken out in race one, it would have been my first win in the States. And that screwed my mentality for race two, I went in very hot-headed, wanted to get the win and then I made a mistake, and went wide. So, that was two wins lost.
“He sat me down and told me straight: “You’re being an idiot, why are you doing this kind of thing?”. But he doesn’t do it in a disrespectful way, he does it in a way that I understand and I really listen to him.
“His words were “you’re faster than all of them, just wait three laps and you’ll overtake them”. I acted on that advice in race three, was patient, and after three laps, I got the lead and drove off. He’s a massive influence. I don’t think he knows how much he influences my driving, but definitely the mentality side of it. Without him, who I’ve become as a person wouldn’t be possible.”
Q: “Congratulations on your Aston Martin BRDC Autosport Award nomination. Oddly, I suppose, it’ll mean you returning to something for a change!”
LF: “Obviously, I did it last year, so it’s not super new to me now, I’m a bit of a seasoned veteran, I guess! I’ll go into it with the same procedure as most things. We’re going to do a test in a GT3 – honestly, I sucked in the GT3 car last year.
“I was so bad; I just couldn’t hack it. I think I overdrove it, having driven single seaters for three years in a row and not driving a ‘tin top’. Hopping in it for 15 laps and having to go fast was probably a bit too much.
“If not to win the award this year, then my aim is to go in and get a better understanding of how to drive a GT car, because it’s just so different to what I’m used to.
“It’s a privilege to be selected, especially being over here in the US and, I guess, out of the ‘European eye’, in a sense. It would be easy for the BRDC, Aston Martin and Autosport to forget about me, because I’m not there, or really about in the UK. But it means a lot to me that they’re still paying attention, they still care and they’re watching my career unfold.”
Q: “Let’s look ahead to next season then, and another big test in Indy Lights. You’re one step away from IndyCar. What’s the game plan?”
LF: “[laughs] I haven’t driven the car yet. Most of the drivers have moved up, so a lot of the grid next year will be drivers I’ve raced in Indy Pro. I’ll be with Andretti, so the best team on the grid. I’ve got the tools behind me, so I feel as long as the preparation is good, I have a good pre-season of testing and we work hard, there’s no reason we shouldn’t be top three, top two, or possibly win.
“The aim is to be in IndyCar in 2024. And the best way to achieve that is to win. So, my aim is to win.”