Born to race - Tommi Gore continues rich family legacy in racing
It seemed inevitable that Tommi Gore would be on a racetrack testing his skills against the best, after all, his father – is one of the best race car drivers in Jamaica – Douglas ‘Hollywood’ Gore.
When asked who the better driver is, himself or the older Gore, young Tommi responded with wit, as fast as his hot laps - “Which car?” he said laughing.
It’s not just him and his father. The 14-year-old comes from a proud racing family that has made its mark in local and regional racing. Douglas is a multiple rally and Dover champion. His grandfather , Neil, raced at Vernamfield.
Tommi recalled his first introduction to the sport, driving with his father and grandfather around the track as a child.
“I was always involved in racing through my dad and my grandpa (Neil) and I was always into cars, so we went up to the go-kart track, and I drove for the first time and I loved it, and it just continued from there,” he told The Sunday Gleaner.
Although Doug always hoped that his son would follow the path into the family business, he was careful to ensure that Tommi’s love for the sport would develop organically like his did.
Shift towards racing
“I didn’t want to push him on a personal point. I didn’t want to do it for myself. Is Tommi going to enjoy it? [But] as the years have progressed, I have just noticed, especially in the last two to three years, a change in Tommi towards racing, and even when we went out in the car, I could tell that there was a lot of anticipation, a lot of people looking, people wondering how is he going to do,” Doug shared.
It was a decision that Tommi made on his own as he began enjoying himself and seeing remarkable improvement in his skills.
“It just happened. It wasn’t a conversation because at one point I was on the fence whether I wanted to stay or not,” Tommi said. “But then I really started to enjoy it more, and I started to progress a lot more with my driving, and we just decided that it was the best move.”
When it became clear that Tommi had every intention of following in his father’s footsteps, Doug obliged with one non-negotiable condition: he had to maintain a high average in his academics.
Tommi accepted the terms and since then, the Hillel Academy student has kept his promise, consistently making the honour roll. He credits the discipline in maintaining his grades in fostering the work ethic that he takes in preparing to compete.
“It was always if you get good grades then you can race. So I made sure to keep on getting A’s and B+’s and keep on going, and I’m always working hard at school to keep up my grades so I can race,” Tommi said. “I think it helped with my work ethic because I just would prepare more because if I knew I had a race on the weekend, I would make sure I’d finish all my homework before the weekend.”
While Tommi acknowledges that he does feel pressure to aspire to the same heights that his father reached, he says that he feels a sense of focus and clarity when he is behind the wheel, which eliminates stress placed from the outside.
“All the time I feel pressure in general, but I find once you get in the car and driving, everything fades away. You are not thinking about anything else other than driving,” Tommi said.
Since making his debut at the tender age of five, Tommi has gone on to excel in go-kart racing, the highlight being him winning the Rotax Junior championship last year.
However, the biggest milestone of his career came in October when he became the youngest driver ever to compete at Dover raceway, transitioning to the circuit with his new Honda Civic race car. He remembers the experience as being nerve racking, competing against older and fiercer competition and adjusting to the upgrade in level.
“At first I didn’t feel comfortable in the car, and it was very intimidating. [But] when I went out for the qualifiers, it was very fun and I got in the groove, and I just focused on that day from there.”
It was a memorable day for the entire family, especially Doug, as he watched his son make his debut on the track.
“On race day, everyone was in the stands cheering and rooting him on and I tell you that it was a very proud moment for [me] and everyone in the family. He did fantastic and we are just looking forward to great things to come,” Doug said.
“I think he will get there and he will probably surpass me. What he has been given so early in life and he has competed abroad and locally already and he has done very well in both. So I see a very good progression, and I see great things to come for Tommi, and as long as he can keep up his grades, we should be all right,” Doug said.