Alex Kirby's life in Newport Beach's fast lane
Professional race car drivers these days get their start as kids, gunning go-karts as early as 5 or 6, but 23-year-year-old pro racer Alex Kirby didn’t climb into a go-kart until he was 18.
He and his dad, Jim, were watching a Formula One race on TV at their Newport Beach home when Kirby thought: “I love this stuff. Why aren’t I racing?”
He was a senior at Corona del Mar High School, and not the most ambitious senior. “I was never really that good at school, so I never liked school that much,” he says.
What to do then with the plump little college fund his parents had built up with money from their auto advertising business, L.A. Prep? Kirby’s dad happens to be a former race car driver (Datsun 510) and stunt precision driver who gave up the risk-taking habit when Alex was born. But suddenly his son was showing an interest in what the old man was once pretty darn good at.
The next weekend, Dad took his son out to Fontana to watch a go-kart race.
A few weeks later, Alex Kirby had his own kart. His first race was up in Santa Maria only a month or so after that. “I was out of my league a little bit,” he laughs. “I think I came in last.”
Less than a year later, though, Kirby was racing a $40,000 Formula F1600, courtesy of his college fund. He has since moved up to a Formula 2000, price tag $60,000.
“It’s on steroids, basically,” Kirby says. “It’s got wings. A bigger engine.”
He has also started racing his latest acquisition, a Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car, winning four of the six races he entered in the West Coast Series in 2016. He came in second on the other two.
His goal: The National Series. Or, as he puts it, “Anything and everything.” He already has eight commercials under his belt; one for Lexus airs in Japan. And he’s knocking on Hollywood’s door for stunt driver roles.
Kirby professes to have no fear behind the wheel, but there is one little thing that scares him … spiders.
My Neighborhood: Newport Beach, Castaways
Why I live there: I grew up there. I haven’t found any reason to leave.
Favorite beach: Newport Peninsula, 56th Street
Biggest fan: My dad. He’s keeping the whole thing going.
On your iPod: I use Spotify. Blink-182 is always in there.
How many hours of sleep a night: Six. If I sleep too much, I’m too groggy.
Cups of coffee a day: Zero
Go-to drink: Iced tea
Dream car: Ferrari 458
Top speed: 165 mph
Everyday tooling-around-town car: BMW 128i. It’s not a fast car.
Perfect day: Beach in the morning. Race cars during the day. Barbecue with family at night.
Favorite lunch spot: Chronic Tacos
People would be surprised to know: I’m actually a very cautious and slow driver on the street.
Crash record: I haven’t been in any bad crashes. Just small incidents. Someone else’s wheels interlocked with mine, and we flew off the track, but no one got hurt.
How long races are: Twenty laps or 40 minutes, whichever comes first
Typical practice: I have a simulator smack dab in the middle of my bedroom. It’s basically a video game, but I bought a steering wheel and pedals. When I have a race coming up, I hit it hard. If I haven’t been to that race track before, I go on and pick that track and do as many laps as I can. It has an actual race car seat. The wheel has feedback so when you go over a bump you can feel it. All the tracks are laser-scanned so every single bump is in there. For about $2,000, it’s cheaper than going out to the track and buying tires and fuel. That’s where everyone is headed.
Biggest commercial: The Indy 500 (2014). It was for Honda, about the evolution of racing. They had me driving one of three Formula cars. I was the lead.
Race state of mind: The moment I see the green flag, the nerves go away and I forget about everything outside of the race car.
Backup career: Stunt driver. I have my SAG card.