It’s been a stellar year for Motorsport UK Academy athlete Louis Foster.
Having moved his entire life ‘across the pond’ to the United States to pursue his IndyCar dream, the 19-year-old, originally from Hampshire, enjoyed championship success at the first attempt at the highly competitive IndyPro 2000 Series.
That earned him a further step 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 competing in IndyCar, the premier tier of American single-seater racing. .
A graduate of the ROKiT British F4 and GB3 Championships in the UK, Foster 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 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. Tell us about the process of adapting to life ‘on the side of the state’?
Louis Foster: “It is my first year here in the United States and it was quite a new experience for me to be away from my family. I live here alone on the west coast, there is a difference of seven or eight hours, in terms of time.
“There are a lot of things to adapt to, but at the end of the day, racing is racing anywhere in the world. When it comes down to it, you and your engineering team are still working together to make a fast race car. For me, once we figured it out and started moving forward, it was pretty smooth from there.
“However, there were a lot of challenges, of course, with street circuits and ovals. From the outside looking in, the ovals look easy, but once you get inside you realize there’s a lot more technicality involved. There’s a lot more to it than meets the eye, and they’re pretty terrifying, to be honest! It’s probably recently, the only time in a car that I’ve been scared.
“But that’s all part of the challenge and they’re nice to race. It has made the year so much more interesting and, in turn, so much more difficult, which makes success all the sweeter.”
Q: “It’s not the way that Brits moving up the single-seater ranks usually go. But it’s pretty clear that you’ve structured your career around this ambition to compete in IndyCar. Tell us through the journey so far…”
LF: “For me, go-karting was a fun weekend hobby. I participated in club races about ten times a year, it was me, my brother and my dad. It was nothing more than that. We won championships, of course, but they weren’t massive national or international titles, nothing like that. Nobody really knew me in karting, and I wasn’t that good either.
“Then we jumped to Ginetta Juniors. My first year was 2018, and my intention was to do three years and then maybe win the championship in my last year. But after my freshman year, I was a rookie champion and missed out on winning the overall championship. At that point, we realized that there was a possible career in this.
“The reason I got into F4 was because I couldn’t do anything else at that age, I was too young. If I had been a year older, I have no idea where I would be now. Maybe I would have raced in GT4.
“During F4, I knew that Formula 1 was not a realistic option. It is a dream, of course, but there is a difference between dreams and goals, which is what I see.
“So, I changed my goal and my dream to race in IndyCar came from a very young age, in GB3. The main reason to come here is the stair system, with the ‘Road to Indy’. Nobody else is offering what they offer, with the scholarship money. I made over $600,000 this year, and that amount of money is invaluable to me now with the move to Indy Lights for next year.”
Q: “So why IndyCar? What is the fascination there, for you?
LF: “In IndyCar, there are great circuits, great cars, it’s extremely diverse. I find it much 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 made much more sense to come to the United States.”
Q: “You have always adapted well to new cars, always moving forward after just one season and never finishing lower than third overall. What is the secret?
LF: “My focus has always been, every time I put something new in, that I’m a complete novice. Especially here, I didn’t go in with an ego. Virtually everyone in America had no idea what I’d done before, or who I was, and vice versa. I hadn’t run with them before, I didn’t really know them.
“I had to learn everything. Every race I went to, my first time on the track, aside from a few places, was FP1. It was basically having to adapt very quickly, and I would say the most important 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 starting to race is the most important thing, so before the race I have a very rigorous routine of things that I go through, whether it’s the simulator, talking to other drivers, looking at data, looking at videos.
“So, I get to the track and I know where my braking points are, what gear I need to be in and so on, all the specifics, at every corner around the lap. And once I put it into practice on the track, I’m already in a very good place to be able to go even faster from there.
“But, having said that, to a certain extent, a lot of being able to get in a car and be fast is the talent of the driver. I’m not approaching that with an ego, but you have to just ‘get in and drive it’. You have to have the preparation, but when it comes down to it, you just have to drive it. It is difficult to describe, there is no formula”.
Q: “How much is your dad worth?” [ex BTCC and British GT racer, Nick Foster] help, as a race car driver in my own right?
LF: No one has ever asked me that! He has worked with me a lot behind the scenes and has massively developed my character. I admire him and I want to become what he has.
“It’s pretty fun, really. When I started racing, he was a bit of a coach for me, because at the time I was new and he had been doing it for a few years, with BTCC, GT, etc. So he would help me, but then a switch was flipped, where I knew more than him about racing.
“So, he stopped trying to tell me what to do, because he realized I wasn’t that helpful in that regard. From time to time, he has some opinions that I take into account, but he is super, super good at keeping his head on the ground.
“A great example was this year in Indianapolis. I had the pace to win all three races, but they took me out in race one, it would have been my first victory in the States. And that messed up my mindset for race two, I came in really hyped up, I wanted to get the win and then I made a mistake and went wide. So, it 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 are faster than all of them, wait three laps and you will overtake them”. I took that advice in race three, was patient and after three laps I got the lead and went. It is a great influence. I don’t think he knows how much it influences my driving, but definitely the mindset side. Without him, what I have become as a person would not be possible.”
Q: “Congratulations on your nomination for the Aston Martin BRDC Autosport Award. Strangely, I guess, it will mean you’re going back to something for a change!
LF: “Obviously I did it last year so it’s not very new to me now, I’m a bit of a veteran I guess! I’m going to go into it with the same procedure as most things. We are going to do a test in a GT3. Honestly, last year I sucked the GT3.
“It was so bad; I just couldn’t hack it. I think I overdid it, having driven single-seaters for three years in a row and not driven a ‘tin hood’. Jumping in it for 15 laps and having to go fast was probably too much.
“If I don’t win the award this year, then my goal is to get in and better understand how to drive a GT car, because it’s so different to what I’m used to.
“It’s a privilege to be selected, especially being here in the United States and, I suppose, outside the ‘European eye’, in a sense. It would be easy for BRDC, Aston Martin and Autosport to forget about me, because I’m not there, not really in the UK. But it means a lot to me that they’re still paying attention, that they’re still caring and that they’re still watching my career unfold.”
Q: “So, let’s look ahead to next season and another great test at Indy Lights. You are one step away from IndyCar. What is the game plan?
LF: “[laughs] I haven’t driven the car yet. Most of the drivers have moved up, so a lot of next year’s grid will be drivers I’ve raced with in Indy Pro. I’ll be with Andretti, so the best team on the grid. I have 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 is no reason why we shouldn’t be in the top three, top two or possibly victory.
“The goal is to be in IndyCar in 2024. And the best way to achieve that is to win. So my goal is to win.”