From a country most notable for its obsession with basketball and boxing, motorsport in the Philippines is still a growing yet niche sport. In the past year, we have seen new up-and-coming faces representing the nation in various small but significant open-wheel racing series, like Bianca Bustamante, Iñigo Anton, and, more recently, Zach David.
Who is this new kid on the block, and why is this Filipino-born racer carrying the flag of Malta?
At four years old, Zach started racing professionally in go-karts in 2011 through a local clinic. Two years later, he broadened his horizon toward international competition, beginning with the Asian Karting Open Championship (AKOC).
The fruits of his labor paid off after being awarded the 2014 Philippine Karter of the Year and the 2015 Tony Siddayao Award for Outstanding Philippine Athletes. In terms of on-track performance, he snagged the 2017 AKOC and the 2018 IAME X30 Southeast Asia Championship.
The year 2020 changed everything when the COVID-19 pandemic began. Zach and his father were stranded in Malta during the lockdown, and to expand his craft in Europe, he needed to attain a racing license there, which meant carrying the Maltese flag instead of the Philippine flag.
Despite the nationality change, Zach kept racing in various European karting series, such as the FIA Karting Academy Trophy, the FIA Karting European Championship, and the WSK Euro Series. It wasn’t until 2022 when Sauber Motorsport saw potential in the young driver and signed 14-year-old Zach to its karting program.
That same year, Zach shifted from go-karts to single-seater Formula 4 cars, where US Racing signed the then 14-year-old to compete in Germany’s ADAC F4.
In 2023, he continued to race on two continents for two different teams.
French-based team R-ace GP signed him for the Formula 4 UAE Championship, where he finished fifth in the rookies championship and eighth overall. One contributing factor was his first podium and top finish in an open-wheeler after finishing P1 in the second round.
US Racing re-signed David in the Italian F4 Championship and the Euro 4 Championship, where he finished in the rookie division third and fourth, respectively. He managed to step onto the podium four times at Imola Circuit, Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, and Misano World Circuit.
For 2024, Zach is returning to the Middle East and Europe, now racing in the much-faster Formula Regional cars and with R-ace GP setting up the 16-year-old driver for both continents. So far, he has completed the first round at Yas Marina Circuit and finished P2 in the second race.
We haven’t seen a Filipino driver reach this level of formula racing since Marlon Stockinger made it up to the FIA GP2 Series in 2015. Who knows what’s next for the young racer? Zach David is slowly but surely becoming the one to watch for in the coming months and hopefully years.