Filipino racer William Go (The GAME)

William Go: Get To Know The Filipino Racing Prodigy

William Go tells The GAME about his lifelong racing journey and what it was like to try out for a coveted slot in the Ferrari Driver Academy.

The barriers to entering motorsports can be tough to overcome, making it one of the most niche sports around. As Filipino racer William Go says from experience, “Everyone in the community is very close.” Reflecting on an international racing competition he joined this year, explained that even internationally, drivers know one another. And in the Philippines, that community is even smaller. Racing events and resources, though they are starting to grow, are still relatively limited in the country, especially in comparison to other nations. However, there has arguably been no better time for Filipino racers than there is right now.

The appetite for motorsports in the Philippines has been growing and the signs of this are aplenty. More Filipinos are now fans of Formula 1; McLaren driver Bianca Bustamante is now one of the most famous Filipina athletes, giving Formula Racing a new audience; and there is a growing amount of opportunities for young drivers nowadays.

William Go has witnessed this appetite first-hand.

When William found out that he was going to be competing in the Ferrari Driver Academy (FDA) Selection Program, where the famous Italian racing team searches the world for drivers to join their exclusive talent pool to help them develop their skills, he shared this announcement online through his social media pages. The response? Filipinos can probably guess, knowing how natural it is for them to rally behind a national athlete.

“Everyone was liking my posts, commenting, reposting about it,” William tells The GAME. “It showed that people really do care about these kinds of things. So, if they have passion for the sport, I should show more passion, that I’m not just doing this for myself, but for the country.”

A noble mindset to have for someone who is only 15 years old. But when you’ve been racing your whole life, traveling from country to country to compete, and driving alongside and against some of the best young racers from all over the world, the concept of ‘home’ can start to mean a lot more.

Racing roots

The first time William Go got into a go-kart was on his third birthday. He grew up exposed to the racing world, as his dad was very close friends with people in the local motorsports community, and it was only a matter of time before William was driving a kart himself.

“When I first started, I could barely even fit in the kart. They had to put pillows around my back just to help me reach the pedals,” William recalls. By the time he was five years old, he was already starting to compete, and it wouldn’t be long before he started winning.

William Go started his racing career with karting and he quickly proved his skills from a young age.

William races as though it is in his blood. At around the age of 10 years old, he already made the move from racing locally to competing around Asia. An opportunity came about through one of his parents’ friends to race in Singapore, and this would turn out to open so many more doors for the Cebuano. He competed for two years under a British team before moving to another team, and in his words, “That was the best season I had.”

In 2019, he was the overall champion for three Asian Championships — the IAME Series Asia, the ROK Cup Singapore, and the Asian Karting Open Championship (AKOC). His success within the region started to turn heads, and not long after, he got the opportunity to race in Europe. There, he simply continued showing off his natural karting mastery.

William Go became the first Filipino to notch three podium finishes for karting in Europe after he finished second in the 2022 FIA Karting Academy in Belgium, finished third in the WSK Euro Series in Italy, and became the World Champion in the Super ROK in Italy in October 2022.

From then on, William realized that racing was more than just an extracurricular activity.

“At the start of my career, it was more like a hobby to me. I never really took it seriously. But after I had this little break during the pandemic, I grew up a little bit and matured more, and I slowly realized that I wanted to do it,” William explains. “I realized that if you’re spending money for the sport, you need to work for it.”

William Go became the first Filipino to achieve three podium finishes for karting in Europe, a very competitive racing level.

The decision to pursue racing as a career is not an easy one to make. As an expensive sport that utilizes countless resources, most teams you’ll find anywhere in the world will only have limited slots for drivers. Only the best of the best truly make it far. So when the Automobile Association of the Philippines approached William with an opportunity to join the Ferrari Driver Academy Selection Program earlier this year, how could he possibly turn it down?

Taking a chance with Ferrari

William Go admitted that applying for the Ferrari Driver Academy Selection Program was a last-minute thing. “I had some doubts because I had some racing and school during that time of the year,” he recalls. “I joined on the exact day of the deadline for the application submission.”

Like a lot of things in life, this unexpected and last-minute opportunity turned out to be what William now refers to as the best thing that’s happened in his career thus far.

He shared that when he first saw that he was on the Ferrari website as an accepted applicant in the 2023 Selection Program, he thought, “Wow this is getting really real, so I started to think more about what I had to do to try and win it.” With his acceptance, he was invited to join the Asia Pacific and Oceania regional selection program in the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia along with 24 other drivers.

This task would not come easy. At this point in his career, William Go still had not yet made the jump from karting to single-seater racing, two very different categories. As the 15-year-old explains, “[Formula cars] have a lot more speed, and there are different driving styles, steering, and braking that you need to apply from car to car.” Transitioning from one to another proves to be a challenge for most racers, and the young Filipino would have to accomplish this with the team behind the Ferrari Driver Academy watching and analyzing his every move.

William Go was one of the few chosen candidates for the Ferrari Driver Academy Scouting Program.
As a driver in the FDA Scouting Program for 2023, William was competing against many other talented drivers from all over the world.

“Most drivers have around 40 test days before their first main event in a car,” William explains. “I only had eight, because 40 test days is a lot of money, so this was the most we could do.”

This, however, did not stop William Go in the slightest. His karting days were already an indicator that the Cebuano is a naturally gifted driver. Being in a Formula car for the first time highlighted this all the more.

“I’ll be honest, the transition was the best thing I’ve done because from what everyone would tell me, my driving style suited the [Formula car],” he tells us. “What most of the engineers I’ve worked with told me is that getting to know a car is all through adaptability.”

Despite only having eight test days with the car prior to his Formula racing debut, William Go was one of the most impressive drivers on the track. During the five-day program, it was only on the third day that the candidates were able to get behind the wheel and showcase their skills. And on the last day, William was the fastest driver.

In a limited amount of time, William made sure to cap off the weekend with a performance to remember. But it wasn’t until weeks later that he would find out if his hard work and impressive results would amount to anything, and the chances were slim — only two drivers out of the 24 would advance to the Finals of the Selection Program.

“I had to wait a long time and the waiting process was just killing my brain…I kept checking my emails every second to see if it was out yet,” William says. “But then my mom and dad received a call saying that I got in…I was a bit shocked because who would expect to go to the actual Ferrari factory and the Ferrari test track?”

William Go was on his way to Maranello, Italy, the iconic birthplace of many legendary drivers.

William Go made his single-seater racing debut in the Ferrari Driver Academy Scouting Program, where his skills easily matched the car.
From Malaysia to Maranello

William had one month before he was off to Italy for the Ferrari Driver Academy World Scouting Finals. Typically, a driver would use this time to find track sessions to test out the car as preparations. However, due to limited resources, unfortunately, William was unable to find the time, on top of the fact that test days can be quite costly. Instead, he utilized the resources available to him. This included simulator training, where he was able to simulate driving the car so he could adapt his driving style and familiarize himself with the track without being there physically. On top of this, he also spent some extra time doing physical strength training, while also doing some karting.

“These little things were what I think was the biggest help for me during that break of mine,” the 15-year-old reflects. And while these would prepare him for the time he would spend in the car and on the track in Maranello, there was likely nothing William could have done to prepare himself for what he would feel upon arriving in Italy.

“The fan in me was screaming — my goodness, I am actually here,” he reveals. “But the other part of me was telling myself to keep it professional. Just keep yourself composed. I was trying to be professional the entire five days, as it was a really long event.”

William Go was one of the two finalists from the Asia Pacific and Oceania regional selection program and was invited to attend the World Scouting Finals in Maranello.

The name Ferrari in the racing world is synonymous with success. It represents many legendary drivers, such as Michael Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel, Niki Lauda, Alberto Ascari — the list goes on. William Go, as a racer and a fan of these names himself, understood this and experienced first-hand what it was like to have to try out for a team of this reputation.

“I sat in the car inside of the little garage of Ferrari…As soon as I started the engine, left the pit lane, and went to the track, I went through the first corner and saw people watching on the left — an entire bridge filled with people watching and taking videos. I was thinking, okay, this is something that people really want to see.”

This, however, was just an external battle. Internally, William also spent the week meeting other drivers and coming to a better understanding that he had much less experience than the other drivers he was up against. “The rest had done seasons of Formula 4 already, so they have the advantage, they’ve done tons of races, and they’ve been to the track. So I was at this disadvantage.”

But, in the same way that he did not let anything stop him in Malaysia, he wasn’t going to let any of this stop him in Maranello.

William Go admitted that as he was going out onto the track, with his tires still cold, he could feel the pressure. But, as soon as he started kicking up the gears and heating up his car, all the nerves he felt went out the window. “Everything happens so quickly that you just always need to keep your mind on one thing.”

He admitted that the limited testing days proved to be a challenge for him in the car because going around the fast corners was one of the things that took him a little bit longer to adjust to. But the hardest part? William recalled that it was trying to maintain perfection on every lap.

As part of the FDA Selection Program, William Go got the chance to show off his skills on the iconic Ferrari test track, Maranello.

Although the Ferrari Driver Academy Selection Program did not involve any car-to-car racing for safety reasons, a huge part of it was simulating a race, where the candidates would have to drive lap after lap, reaching near full-race distances, trying to stay consistent with their times on every go-around. “That’s the hardest part,” William shares.

But despite the challenges he faced on the track and the pressures he felt coming into the weekend, William was proud of his performances. Even though he wasn’t the most experienced driver, he was never too far off from the quickest times, even reaching second or third fastest, thus proving his adaptability as a racer taking on a new car on a new track — and in Maranello, no less. And although he was unable to document any of it on his phone, it was a week he will surely never forget.

Carrying the flag

Now, William Go is once again playing the waiting game. “It’s been at least three weeks now, so it’s a long process because they don’t just want to pick a driver. They want to pick an extraordinary driver,” he says.

This awareness, however, does not make the waiting any easier. In fact, William says it may be even harder than doing the actual driving. But even with the results still pending, the youngster is already proud of what he has achieved.

“Being a Filipino, there’s not many people who have the opportunity to [race]. Filipinos are very fond of different sports, like basketball, and there aren’t many people into racing yet. So seeing someone up there, bringing more sports to the Philippines — for me, it was a really good thing.”

At just 15 years old, William already has a deep level of understanding of the role he plays. He is one of the very few Filipino racers competing at the international level, and with the amount of buzz he generated when Filipino sports fans found out about his entry in the Ferrari Driver Academy World Scouting Finals, he quickly realized that he was doing more than just racing for himself.

As one of the few Filipinos racing on the international stage, William Go understands his role in representing his country every time he steps into a car.

When William was a young boy, his dad would take him to the tracks to watch their family friend race. This left a lasting impression on the young boy, who would turn out to become one of the Philippines’ racing prodigies. Now, he is doing the same for other youngsters who hope to break into this challenging sport and is setting an example of how it can be done. For William, it is all about mindset.

“You can be the best driver, but if you don’t have a good mindset, you will not win the race…I was all the way in Europe, going to the gym, going for runs, staying fit, doing my school work, and I was away from my family for a whole year,” he shares. “You need to keep yourself mature enough to deal with situations like this.”

One thing that keeps William Go grounded, even as he competes in major competitions around the world, is his home. Even when he started racing in Europe, he was quick to recognize that he wouldn’t have gotten those opportunities if he hadn’t learned what he needed to when he was racing in the Philippines. With this as his foundation, he managed to grow as a driver, and at 15, he is far away from his last race.

As William Go continues to travel the world for his passion, chasing his dream of becoming a Formula 1 driver, he will carry the Philippine flag with him on his cars and in his prayers.

“What I always do is pray before going onto the track. I always add in my prayer that I will do this not just for myself, but for my country because I wouldn’t have any kind of drive and passion without the people supporting me.”

Banner images from William Go on Instagram.

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