Much like the way he moves on a race track, rising Canadian racing star Patrick Woods-Toth is quick to leave an impression.
Just months after switching from a kart to a race car, the 19-year-old from Saint-Lazare, Que., leads the U.S. Formula 4 championship series by 36.5 points with six races to go. He also attracted Ron Fellows, a member of the Canadian Motorsports Hall of Fame, as a mentor.
“From everything I see, he’s a kid with the best sk**ls I’ve ever seen,” said Fellows, who holds the record for most wins by a foreign-born driver in NASCAR’s first three series.
Other Canadian sports legends are also taking note.
Last December, Woods-Toth received a scholarship for the “Karts to Cars” program at Radford Racing School in Arizona. It only took a few days for Hall of Famer and F4 US Race Director Scott Goodyear to recognize he had a special talent.
“At the end of day two, my line to (Fellows) was, ‘Houston, you’ve got a problem,'” Goodyear said. “Because he has a young boy here who is super talented and really has no financial backing to speak of.”
Goodyear says he was impressed with Woods-Toth’s composure and ability to make sound decisions at high speed in a car. Fellows says Woods-Toth has an “elite-level processor” and the ability to review data and video and translate it for improvement.
But accolades have their limits in a world of elite racing fueled by substantial financial backing. The only two Formula 1 drivers in Canada in the past 15 years, Lance Stroll and Nicholas Latifi, have billionaire parents.
Woods-Toth has a different story. He lost his father to an accident and his mother to illness before the age of five and was raised by his grandparents.
“The rest of my family, I guess you could say, adopted me,” Woods-Toth said. “I lived with my grandmother, my grandfather for a while, then my aunt and cousins all supported me. »
Woods-Toth spent most of her time growing up with her grandmother in Saint-Lazare and spent her weekends in Saint-Sauveur, Quebec, with her grandfather. This is where his pa*sion for driving began.
His grandfather, who died in 2021, had raced himself and was an avid fan, with his living room TV constantly tuned to Formula 1 and IndyCar.
Both men rode ATVs and snowmobiles on the weekends, until Woods-Toth took up go-karting, which took up most of their time.
Woods-Toth says he received financial support from his family to get into karting. Around age 14, he joined the Motomaster Ron Fellows karting championship in Bowmanville, Ontario. Fellows and his wife, Lynda, have been helping young people go karting in Canada for 20 years.
Once in the Fellows series, Woods-Toth says he received financial support from Prime Power Team owner Trevor Wickens.
“I wouldn’t be here without Trevor’s help,” Woods-Toth said.
“That’s for sure.”
Woods-Toth has won three consecutive championships in the Fellows Series and won the Canadian Karting Championship last year.
After making an impression on Goodyear in Arizona, Woods-Toth joined the Crosslink Kiwi Motorsport team for Formula 4’s first weekend in New Orleans in March.
Once there, Woods-Toth far exceeded expectations finishing second, third and third in all three races of the event, making it clear he should have a full season on the US F4 circuit – which Fellows says , costs around $300,000.
Now backed by Fellows and Fidanis — who own Toronto-based real estate firm Orlando Corp. – Woods-Toth is favorite to win the US F4 Championship.
Going forward, Woods-Toth has several options: to progress in Formula Regional (F3) in the United States, or to try to drive an F3 in Europe.
“The real goal is to get to Europe where I can really develop,” Woods-Toth said. “There is no scholarship for that, we will have to pay for it. This is the next biggest hurdle.
The financial demand is significant. Fellows estimates that upgrading to F3 in Europe would cost “one and a half million, maybe one and a quarter million” Canadian dollars.
Fellows says they are constantly working to secure more sponsorships, with nothing concrete to report for next season.
“In a perfect world from a funding point of view, you’d like to see a kid with those sk**ls get the chance to go to Formula 1,” Fellows said.
“A lot of it is about letting people know that there is a very talented kid out there who deserves a chance,” he added. “I’ve been in this business all my life and we’ll keep knocking on doors, it’s non-stop.”
Goodyear thinks the challenge Woods-Toth faces off the track could be even greater.
“The dream is there, if you can make it happen,” he said. “He has the ability, he has the talent, but racing is a whole package and he is going to have to work as hard off the track as he does on the track.
“You have to work as if you were playing politics for the mayor.”
While acknowledging the realities of the sport, Woods-Toth said: “If you’re not aiming for Formula 1, I don’t know why you’re racing. »
And his commitment is little questioned.
Goodyear says Woods-Toth “eats, breathes, and sleeps business” and studies acting like he’s an NFL quarterback to figure out how he can approach each lead.
Woods-Toth believes that dedication is the main reason for his success so far. He says it’s something his grandfather taught him.
“He really made sure I wasn’t kidding and took it seriously,” he said. “There’s no excuse if I don’t do the right thing. There is no excuse for making mistakes or not learning, you always have to improve and my grandfather taught me that from a very young age.
With that kind of talent and determination, Fellows is confident the young driver will get his chance.
“If you’re good enough, want it enough, and stay in it long enough, someone’s going to find you,” he said. “I believe it wholeheartedly.”