A Calgary go-kart racer and race car driver who nabbed a coveted spot on a factory racing team will soon be hurtling around tracks across the world, and at speeds that reach up to 135 kilometres per hour.
But you won’t see him roaring around city streets solo any time soon — this racer is too young to drive on Deerfoot Trail alone.
Fourteen-year-old Alex Berg is the second of only two go-kart racers in North America to win a place on the Mazda Motorsports USA Spec MX-5 Challenge Factory Racing Team, which is the Mazda’s first factory facing team.
He will also represent Canada next month in an international kart race event called the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals in Portugal.
“It’s just in my blood, it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve always grown up around race cars,” Alex told The Homestretch on Sunday.
The Mazda family
From the time he was an infant, and photographed standing and smiling in a race car, Alex said it was clear the apple hadn’t fallen far from the tree — he is, after all, the son of Allen Berg, one of the very few Canadians to race in Formula 1, the top tier of international motorsport, and the latest inductee into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame.
As for Alex himself, he began racing go-karts at the Calgary Kart Racing Club in 2015 — when he was about eight-years-old, he said.
He was able to start early because licenses aren’t required for go-karts in Canada, and can be acquired at age 13 for racing in the United States.
As for what it feels like to be hurtling around in a go-kart at over 100 km/h, a leaner, lighter build makes for a rougher experience than most drivers might be used to, Alex said.
With no seatbelts, roll-cages or suspension, the driver is more sensitive to debris and the feel of the road.
“You feel everything in the go-cart, a lot more than in a car,” he said. “Every single bump affects you.”
Eventually, around 2018, Alex started racing in the United States.
And when Mazda asked a magazine called eKarting News to select 18 of the best North American go-kart racers for Mazda Motorsports’ consideration — they were looking for contenders for a one-year scholarship to be a factory driver — Alex was among them.
After writing business proposals, putting together racing biographies and shooting videos, 10 finalists were selected to battle it out with fitness and screen tests — and on a race track — in Atlanta.
When the process was over, Alex was notified he had made the factory team on Nov. 18, and he said it will allow him to begin climbing the ladder in his career.
It also means he is now a driver who will be racing spec MX-5s — or, third-generation Miatas — for the company, and his travel will be paid for.
“It means I’m embedded into the Mazda family. No matter where I go from here, I’m always going to have the backing,” he said.
Dream come true
Alex is early in his career, but he said that he knows where he is going.
He plans to make 2021 his last year go-karting in addition to racing cars — after it’s over, he plans to focus exclusively on the latter, like he will be for Mazda.
His ultimate goal is to become a professional racing driver — with Formula 1, for example, or the IndyCar series, to name a couple.
But right now, he said he is just trying to enjoy an experience that feels unreal.
“It’s really, really a dream come true,” Alex said.
“2021 just seems like it keeps getting better, but it hasn’t even started yet.”