The names are familiar to motor racing fans around the world. And no wonder, because Ralf Schumacher competed in both Formula 1 and the DTM, while Gerhard Ungar played an active role in the DTM programme of Mercedes-AMG for many years. Since the start of the 2016 season, they have been running the ADAC Formula 4 team US Racing from their base in Kerpen and will be fielding four talented youngsters in next weekend's Motorsport Festival Lausitzring (19th - 21st May).
US Racing have three new entrants on their books in the shape of 2016 Best Rookie Nicklas Nielsen (20, Denmark), Fabio Scherer (17, Switzerland) and Julian Hanses (19, Germany). The fourth driver, Kim-Luis Schramm (19, Germany), has been competing in ADAC Formula 4 since the inception of the series in 2015 and was already a member of the US Racing squad last year. "The first weeks and months of the new line-up have gone well," says Gerhard Ungar. "The mood is upbeat. The drivers and the team are a perfect fit. We now need to make sure that we get the best out of them."
When he speaks of "the best", he is not thinking exclusively of the championship title. The joint team principals are looking beyond that towards offering talented juniors a "platform to succeed in ADAC Formula 4 and to then make the next step up", as Ralf Schumacher puts it. Ralf is the brother of record Formula 1 championship winner Michael Schumacher and the uncle of Mick Schumacher who now competes in Formula 3 after finishing the 2016 Formula 4 campaign as championship runner-up.
The team, and above all Nicklas Nielsen, came away with good results from the season opener at Oschersleben in mid-April. The Dane won the second race - a maiden ADAC Formula 4 victory - after coming second in Race 1. He rounded off the weekend with another points finish in P9. He goes to the Motorsport Festival at the Lausitzring as second in the championship, just two points behind Juri Vips (16, Estonia, Prema Powerteam). US Racing are currently second in the team standings behind defending champions Prema Powerteam.
"Looking at the bigger outfits, each of them has at least one driver who can be considered a contender for race wins and for the championship," says Gerhard Ungar. Ralf Schumacher concurs: "The season still has a long way to go, but when you get off to such a good start, it's a powerful motivation for the whole team and for the drivers."
Schumacher: "Kart racing as an ideal springboard to ADAC Formula 4"
The work done by the 41-year-old for the next generation of motor racing stars extends beyond ADAC Formula 4 to his role as a team boss in the ADAC Kart Masters and in the new ADAC Kart Academy: "The Academy is an important mechanism for me to get young people inspired by karting and motor racing. This is where talent at the highest level comes together with equipment at the highest level, but at an affordable cost and with the prospect of getting established in kart racing. You have to keep it as basic as possible to ensure that talent comes to the fore. This is a really great way of getting to know kart racing and an ideal springboard for graduating to ADAC Formula 4."
Ralf Schumacher's son David is currently enjoying success in karting, but whether we can expect to see another Schumacher appearing regularly in the starting lists is a question that the ex-Formula 1 and DTM driver answers with a chuckle: "I've always said that he must be old enough to decide for himself. But if things continue as they are, he will certainly have the opportunity to try his luck in the ADAC Formula 4 series. And if David wants to compete in ADAC Formula 4, he will definitely do so as a member of the US Racing squad. Where else should he go? The question does not arise."