Sepang (The Star/ANN) - At 15, Daniel Rao is a rising young star on the race track and he owes this to his father who sacrificed everything for him.
Lionel Rao, 41, had so much faith in his only son that he sold off properties and cars worth a total of 365,000 ringgit (US$115,762) to pay for the youngster's racing needs since he ventured into the sport in 2009.
The single parent said he did not anticipate the stark reality of heavy financial costs incurred in racing.
"I thought it would cost me a few thousand ringgit a year. But I spent more than 80,000 ringgit ($25,372) seeing Daniel through one series alone," Rao said, adding that he had done this without any sponsorship.
In fact, he said, the money was enough only to pay for secondhand parts as new items cost thrice more.
"I saw my bank account drying up. In 2010, I needed over 200,000 ringgit ($63,431) so I sold my two apartments, including the one we lived in. I sold my old Mercedes and Proton Waja too," he said in an interview at the Sepang International Circuit (SIC).
However, it was still not enough.
Rao had to tell his son they would have to "just forget about racing" as he really could not afford it.
By that time, young Daniel had distinguished himself as a bright talent with numerous achievements under his belt, including winning the 2009 Motorsports Association of Malaysia's talent search, coming in first in the 2009 KBS national championship and third in the 2009 Yamaha SL Cup.
He represented Malaysia in the 2010 Rotax World Grand Finals in Italy and achieved the Rookie of the Year title.
When he was told that he had to stop racing last year, Daniel said he was crushed but did not give up hope.
True enough, his "Cinderella story" had a happy ending when Hampshire Group signed him up for the Malaysian Super Series in the GT Sports Production category, making Daniel the youngest driver at that level.
Team manager Andrew Windebank said: "I see Daniel as Malaysia's first Formula One champion. He has most of the characteristics of world champions, including maturity beyond his years, focus and a drive to not just be competitive but to improve."
Today, Rao beams with pride at his son, saying: "It was all worth it."