Any twelve-year-old would want to be kicking a ball around, maybe playing with his mates, or even riding a bike through the streets.

Well, not Joshua Bugembe.

At 12 years, he is dreaming and dreaming big. He wants to become a Formula One champion driver one day.

From playing with toy cars, watching races on television, listening to motorsport podcasts and documentaries coupled with the urge of discovering everything about Formula One, Bugembe dreams, eats, and breathes Formula One.

“I started driving at nine years old. I have a total of 40 trophies. Last year, I got a record at Rye house. I was 41.64,” said Bugembe on his visit to Silverstone where he was invited by F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton.

It was Joshua’s talent on track in Karting that attracted the attention of Hamilton’s team to give him a tour at the Mercedes Team on race day at Silverstone.

I look up to Hamilton because he has broken records and he has managed to go through all situations. In five years, I would like to be in cars, maybe in Formula 3 or 2 just around Formula. My motto is ‘Always Forward’.

Joshua Bugembe

Bugembe is a charming and talented Karter born in Britain to a Ugandan father and an Ethiopian mother. A perfect match for everything with the chance of being Africa’s first Formula One driver.

“Joshua’s journey started with his character and the things he liked. As a little boy, if we ever went to a toy store he would run to the cars and nothing else. On television, he was only interested in watching motorsport and he would sit and watch the entire race,” says Delina Bugembe, Joshua’s mother.

Race day is always a special moment for the family. The Bugembes have for long been drawn to Formula One races. It has been a lot more for Joshua.

“If you want to have Joshua sit still, just put on a Formula One race and you will find him seated there for hours. His passion has made him know everything about F1. He always has real conversations about F1,” adds his father Mike Bugembe.

From watching races, a family day out to a Karting Club was the onset of Joshua’s journey to motorsport.

“I took all my kids to the local Kart Club to do little bumpy cars and play with their friends. Joshua really loved it and just wanted to go back and ride. From then on, we started going back just for Joshua to have fun,” says Delina.

They have never looked back since.

Joshua Bugembe in action in a Karting competition Credit: Stu Stretton

Joshua is under the Karting Edge Racing Team and he is taking on the British Super One Karting Championship. He is in the Mini Max category which he currently leads with four rounds remaining to the end of the season.

But what a season it has already been! Joshua has so far picked up two wins and three second position finishes of the six rounds covered so far.

That is only part of the start of a journey. Being an African family, keeping Joshua at his best is one job the parents are truly up to.

“Motorsport is ridiculously expensive. The average child here is paying about 30,000 to 45,000 pounds a year just to participate in a championship. And there are some who even pay triple. So, it is not a cheap sport. 

“The early success Joshua had and some of the competitions we have had are inspiring. We do believe this is a sacrifice worth making. His winning is good because it helps with finances and it motivates us,” says his father.

Ambition is not short for both Joshua and his parents. They are keen on seeing him take the next step in his racing career but the fears are holding much to the anxiety of his father.

The next stage is also the stage where you start to see the wealth disparities among the drivers. So, the sport automatically filters you out. Most of the drivers who have gone to stages are those from families where money is not an issue.

“So, we are currently looking for sponsors, people who want to jump on that journey and be part of him getting that elite level of participation. We don’t want to kill the dream.

“If we could get that African connection since now the sport is going for diversity. In Joshua, we are trying to bring in that spectrum of Africa.”

Hamilton who became the first Black driver to win a Formula One driver’s World Championship back in 2008 has been at the forefront of fighting racism in the sport. The British Mercedes driver called on “changing the mindset,” saying “archaic mindsets need to change and have no place in our sport,” in response to three-time F1 champion Nelson Piquet using a racist slur to refer to him.

He has also highlighted the lack of diversity in his sport in terms of drivers, engineers in factories, and those who work in the garage and set up an initiative called “The Hamilton Commission” with the aim to increase representation of Black people in UK motorsport.

It’s that ability to defy the odds that Joshua’s parents continue to prepare him for. As a young black competitor, racial undertones exist as he climbs the racing ladder. It is a reality they have to deal with.

“When he gets a racial slur, we just look at each other and I tell him to take it on the track. And that motivates him, the best thing you can do to Joshua is when you annoy him ahead of a race. That’s when he does his best work and goes for that win,” narrates Delina. “We do talk about it with him. We always tell Joshua that pride is to win on everyone’s best day. When everyone is on their A game and you do fantastic you can still beat anybody in spite of everything thrown to him,” she adds.

It is probably still early days for Joshua and there is no stopping neither him nor Mike and Delina from succeeding. As it looks, the revs are already up in the making of a future champion.

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