Jack Falla is the highest-flying, fastest-driving Guernsey sportsman you may not and should have heard of.
He has shot from zero to sixty in as short a time as one could feasibly manage in a sport where champions are incubated at ludicrously young ages: Lewis Hamilton – coming off the back of a commanding win at the Italian Grand Prix this month – was racing competitively at eight years old; Jack’s very first experience of circuit racing was at twenty-two.
He’s spent twelve hours travelling the length of the country after a gruelling weekend racing in Scotland before this interview; I expect a modicum of patience to be lost with me for my ignorance with respect to his career and sport, especially as I open with the tedious “how did you get in to…” question.
Not so. On holiday to Australia in 2009, fate steered Jack toward his future profession in romantic fashion: “My friend owned a Formula Ford team”, Jack starts, a little nonchalant, “he was testing a load of drivers and he said to pop down to the track, so I borrowed a helmet and drove a racecar for the first time in my life.” Shortly thereafter, a driver in the team dropped out with two races left in the season; Jack was asked, “do you fancy jumping in?”
“And that was that; my holiday in Australia was over!” Jack laughs animatedly. And so it was, with only a handful of hours’ experience driving a supercar, Jack was offered his seat – his debut. Against all odds and in miserably wet conditions, “I came ninth out of a thirty car grid having never raced or trained properly in my life” – a seemingly modest but contextually outrageous feat, moreso as Jack went on to finish eleventh out of another thirty car grid in the following race, proving the first was no fluke.
It’s in the context of the sport’s ferocious competitiveness, in which entire lives are consumed to shave off that make-or-break tenth of a second, that Jack’s casual ascendance can be realised for what it is: nothing short of astounding.
“From 2009 to 2013 I did nothing. I did those two races”, Jack tells me with an understandable annoyance; raw talent wasn’t enough to capitalise on his success without being ‘in the know’. “Then in 2013 my friend said to me, ‘have you not done anything with your racing? We’re running GT3s in Australia soon, would you consider driving?’”
Jack’s initiation in to GT3 racing wasn’t so much romantic as grounding and grafting. The romance was certainly lost in the initial test circuit after his four-year hiatus, run in preparation for his first season in Australia’s Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge 2013. With his new teammates clocking laps of a minute, Jack’s first lap reflected his lacking experience: he was fifteen seconds slower, which may as well be light-years at this level. “It was that slow, it wouldn’t have even qualified me to race”, Jack says, laughing. “I spent everyday that week down the track learning to drive this car. It was a completely different beast”.
Jack paints a toilsome picture before saying, “by the end of the week, I was just off the track record for a GT3 car and finished the season fifth in Pro Class”. First season, age 24, no experience and already finishing just out of reach of the podium; it would beckon Jack after a season of near-miss finishes in the podium’s shadow as he went on to finish third overall and first in his class in the Perth 300 endurance race; “a great memory” and vindication after a hard first season in the deep end.
Jack’s work ethic is exemplary and his regimen comprehensive, which he paints as necessary to have a puncher’s chance at ‘making it’ in circuit racing with his relative “lack of experience”. I ask what it is he thinks gives him the edge over his peers in terms of training, Jack pleasantly surprises me with, “things like visualisation, mindfulness, yoga, meditation; I think they’re as important to me as actually being in the car and training.” We agree on the underappreciated benefits of such techniques – and that we can’t envisage many of the more party-prone F1 drivers employing them.
Though Jack made head-turning inroads during Australia’s Porsche GT3 2013 season, the commute to and from the land down under proved unsustainable. Jack bowed out of the 2014 season, racing only thrice, again with a fifth place finish in the frustrating downwind of champagne spray. The travel is arduous enough without the cross-hemisphere travel, Jack tells me, “it becomes a chore very quickly. Moving to three hotel rooms a week, it gets lonely; you miss the normality of family life; seeing Kirsty and the boys”.
Jack, perhaps unlike many sporting stars his age, is a dedicated family man. He tells me the support from his partner and four-month and seven-year old boys, Otto and Seve, has been steadfast despite the obvious risks – ever-present with recent deaths in the sport – and “ups and downs of racing”, which are as dramatic as they are unforgiving. “They want me to succeed as much as I do. Otto’s too young to know what’s going on, but Seve absolutely loves it. Kirsty knows the risks involved but she trusts me. You can’t jump in a car thinking of the risks and ‘what-ifs’; she knows I’m a clean driver and I rarely make mistakes”. This is evident in Jack’s consistent finishing down to the consistency of his lap times; Jack sums it up with: “I treat every lap like my qualifying lap”.
Jack didn’t lose the momentum he gained throughout 2014 as he did in 2009. He was contacted by Porsche Carrera Cup GB 2014 winners, Redline Racing, with an invitation to drive a test circuit for the 2015 championship, and the rest is history: again in fairy-tale fashion, Jack’s test was behind the wheel of a car he’d never driven, in torrential rain, around an unfamiliar circuit. Despite this, he was the first driver signed by any team for the Carrera Cup GB 2015 season, to last season’s winning team no less.
“My relationship with Redline is like family”, Jack says in no uncertain terms or tone, “there are sixteen other team members; it’s these guys who don’t get enough credit for the work they do. My personal mechanic is like my best friend, he ensures my car is on the grid every race and he will do whatever it takes to fix any damage caused regardless. He’s the guy who belts me up and the last person I have physical contact with while I’m sat on the grid before the race. We have a strong bond”. One can sense the intensity, the sheer anticipation; become infected by the adrenaline’s potency.
Consolidating one and a half seasons-worth of experience; securing hard-won sponsorship deals and advanced training equipment; backed by the Porsche Carrera Cup GB 2014 winning team; and racing circuits just one short flight rather than several long-hauls from Guernsey – the world’s his oyster.
Indeed it remains his oyster, but despite a first season studded with stand-out performances and several podium finishes, it has been beset by setbacks. “It’s a heart-breaking feeling when you are working so hard for the finish you desire and deserve”, Jack admits matter-of-factly, “but I look at the positive and realise not many people get four podium finishes in their first year”. Hugely creditable, with the liberty of context, but as it stands, Jack sits in an unrepresentative fifth in his class of ProAM1 (he overqualified himself for the more rookie-appropriate ProAM2 with a blazing test circuit) in the knowledge that he could, should and would have been higher were it not for a plague of bad luck.
He’s suffered four major and unavoidable setbacks this season already: the first courtesy of a backmarker (a racer who’s been lapped) wiping out Jack whilst he was running seventh overall; the second, in which he was leading his class, the driver in front lost control before Jack collided with him at pace, resulting in his car being written off, missing the next race (the third setback) and suffering a severe concussion; the fourth, the weekend before I meet Jack, he was battling for second in his class before the competing car span through a corner and wiped Jack out. He was sixth-tenths of a second off of pole position – first overall.
So there’s a large and well-weighted asterisk above the fifth place he currently occupies; a position in which he risks being downwind of the champagne he deserves and has worked so hard to be spraying. Jack seems cool and unfazed – “I’m not going backwards, that’s for sure”, Jack reassures me, perhaps as much as himself. “That’s racing. Knowing I could have done nothing to stop what’s happened”, shrugs Jack, “I leave the track, and if there’s any negativity, I leave it on the track”. Wise words, easily talked but harder to walk.
So where from here?
Jack maintains a sustainable, though not always ideal, balance between his career and his family life (and sanity). “I would literally love to pack up everything and escape the chaos, the stress, the highs and lows of racing”, Jack tells me longingly, implying there’s much more to be achieved before he does. I ask Jack what he does to decompress, or if he’s any hobby with which to wind down. “I love motorbikes. Building and restoring old bikes; it’s very therapeutic’, Jack assures me, with my eyebrows raised; the intricacies of mechanical construction after a day’s work don’t strike me as ‘therapeutic.’ “Hmmm, Kirsty can feel a little neglected”, jokes Jack, “I’d like to play tennis or golf too but I’m just consumed by everything else – especially kids!” Jack’s good humour should surely be flashing on reserve after the weekend’s collision and full day of driving, flying and sailing.
The ecstatic podium peaks can contrast taxingly with frustrating troughs; “It always feels, just as I’m taking the next step up the ladder, something takes me down three steps”, Jack says uncharacteristically. “Well, that’s racing!” That’s more like it. “I believe if I’d have finished every race, I’d be in the top three, without a doubt. I still do have time to be in the top three, but it doesn’t give me any room for error – I have to be perfect”.
With perfection the goal, where Jack goes from here is by no means set in the stars, but gauging his boundless determination, dedication and enthusiasm, I’d say it’s undoubtedly up.
You can catch Jack competing in the penultimate round of the Porsche Carrera Cup GB next weekend on ITV4 and support him by liking, commenting and sharing this piece using the social media icons below.
Jack Falla can be followed on:
Twitter – @JackWilliamGF
Instagram – @falla87
Facebook – www.facebook.com/fallasport
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