Every day in schools and colleges across the world, the ethos “it’s never too late to chase your dreams” is preached. But how realistic is this, if your dream is to become a motor racing driver?

According to Jake Hughes: very.

In the modern-day world of single-seater racing it has become the norm for drivers to boast about how early they started in karting. Indeed, much of the current Formula 3 grid will have first set foot in a kart as young as four or five. There are drivers out there have proven that it isn’t pivotal though – it may be the norm, but it isn’t the rule.

F1’s newest driver Nicholas Latifi, for example, didn’t started until his early teenage years. HWA RACELAB’s Hughes is perhaps the most extreme case though. The former British F4 Champion didn’t start karting until he was 16-years-old and hadn’t even set foot in one before he was 15. Many of his peers had already made the move into single-seaters by that point.

“I was like most kids from the UK,” Hughes explained. “I played football from the age of five until I was 16. I found karting by accident when I went for my 15th birthday and the owner told me that I was quite good and asked if I’d ever tried it before, which I hadn’t. A few months later I decided to act on it.”

Even after that watershed moment, Hughes’ answer to the regular childhood question of ‘where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time,’ would likely have been very different to the reality. And yet, around a decade later and the 25-year-old has recently signed a new deal with German motorsport giants HWA RACELAB to drive in F3 next season. That fact isn’t lost on him.

Hughes continued: “In the same token that if you are good enough, you're old enough, you can switch that around and say if you are good enough, you are young enough.

“There are always going to be people who tell you that you can't do things in life, no matter what it is, but as long as you think you can do it, and as long as you fully believe in that and back yourself and go 100% into it, then I don't see a reason why it shouldn't.

“At the end of the day, especially in this sport, it is results based. In my mind, if I was the head of a sport or a team, you just want to see the results. So long as you keep that as your main target then I don't think anyone can really stop you. I try and take that advice myself now and it stands me in good stead.”

The road to this moment has been far from easy though. Hughes knew that if he was going to make anything out of the sport, then his rise needed to be lofty. Despite a complete lack of experience, at 16-years-old, the Briton was already considered a senior in karting.

He joined Andy Cox’s birelART UK karting series in Bromsgrove (then named easykart UK) and was pitted against karters who already had years under their belts, some of whom who’d won European and World Championships.

Even after that watershed moment, Hughes’ answer to the regular childhood question of ‘where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time,’ would likely have been very different to the reality. And yet, around a decade later and the 25-year-old has recently signed a new deal with German motorsport giants HWA RACELAB to drive in F3 next season. That fact isn’t lost on him.

Hughes continued: “In the same token that if you are good enough, you're old enough, you can switch that around and say if you are good enough, you are young enough.

“There are always going to be people who tell you that you can't do things in life, no matter what it is, but as long as you think you can do it, and as long as you fully believe in that and back yourself and go 100% into it, then I don't see a reason why it shouldn't.

“At the end of the day, especially in this sport, it is results based. In my mind, if I was the head of a sport or a team, you just want to see the results. So long as you keep that as your main target then I don't think anyone can really stop you. I try and take that advice myself now and it stands me in good stead.”

The road to this moment has been far from easy though. Hughes knew that if he was going to make anything out of the sport, then his rise needed to be lofty. Despite a complete lack of experience, at 16-years-old, the Briton was already considered a senior in karting.

He joined Andy Cox’s birelART UK karting series in Bromsgrove (then named easykart UK) and was pitted against karters who already had years under their belts, some of whom who’d won European and World Championships.

There are always going to be people who tell you that you can't do things in life, no matter what it is.

He may have been a few years older than his peers, but Hughes still followed the usual pathway and resisted the urge to progress too soon. Like most, his karting career lasted three years before the transition into single-seaters at the age of 19, when he moved into a guise of Formula 4.

This transition proved smoother than any could have imagined. Driving for Lanan Racing, Hughes took the BRDC F4 Championship by storm, with four wins, four poles and 10 podiums from 24 races to win the title with a monster tally of 445 points. His late start hadn’t held him back and he was already well on his way to bucking the trend.

“It was a bit into the unknown for me,” he continued. “Even in the three years of karting I didn’t do any European karting like a lot of guys do, which meant that maybe I didn’t get that same sense of competition. I went into it open minded, I didn’t really know what to expect and in the end, I think a lot of it came from a natural ability.

“I already had the self-belief, but at the same time, I don't think I realised what I had done at the time, because it just came naturally and I found myself getting poles and wins and I wasn't really thinking about it - I didn't know where I was going.

“I remember being nominated for the McLaren Autosport BRDC young driver award and Ian Titchmarsh was one of the judges. I said to him that didn’t expect to be nominated and he was really surprised that I’d said that. I should have been expecting it, I had just won the British Formula 4 Championship in my first year of cars after only three years of karting.”

The honours have continued to tot up since his debut season of single seater racing, including second place in Formula Renault 2.0 Alps (2015) and second place in F3 Asia (2018). Hughes has won races and taken poles in every season of single-seater racing, which is further proof that his late start was no barrier.

And yet, despite the resounding proof of his abilities, he admits that some do still question whether he started young enough. “I still get that now, yeah. Yet here we are, still going strong.

“I have never felt like I missed out though. I don't know what would have happened if I had started earlier, I don't know where I would be now and I don't think like that. My story is my story.”

Going strong indeed. Hughes is now heading into his second season in F3 with the aforementioned HWA RACELAB, having become a key member of their stable. The 25-year-old won the German team’s maiden race last season, as well as adding three further podiums to his tally, which sealed him seventh in the drivers’ standings and HWA fifth in the teams’ table.

Heading into 2020, he has set a simple goal: “To take my career and the team to the next level.” Knowing Hughes, there is no doubt his commitment to this will be total.