Grand Prix Shootout: have you got what it takes?

By Andy & LJH

CalendarSunday, September 6th, 2009

 
 

A scheme to identify future racing stars and guide them up the ladder of feeder series towards Formula One is holding two more assessment days later this month – and is looking for new entrants.

Grand Prix Shootout boasts USF1 chief Peter Windsor and long-time F1 driver coach Rob Wilson among its assessors. Its plan is to use the entry fees of ambitious young drivers to help fund a seat in next season’s Formula BMW Europe championship with Raikkonen Robertson Racing for the best one.

Should the winner already be past the Formula BMW level in their career the money can go towards Formula 2 or British F3, again with Raikkonen Robertson.

The winning driver will receive a salary and expenses, as well as a full fitness programme to help them to compete at the highest level. The hope is that by the end of the season they will have demonstrated the ability to progress further – at which point the experts who ran the share issue that helped IndyCar star Justin Wilson into Formula One will be brought in to launch a similar scheme.

Three evaluation days have already taken place during July and August at Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground with more to follow before the ‘final’ in late November. Eight drivers from the assessment days, plus the winner of the Duratec Formula Ford Festival Final, will compete for the overall prize.

The whole assessment process is intended to be a test of key skills such as driving ability, communication, stamina, technical understanding, problem solving and the ability to learn.

The entry fee has been slashed since the competition was announced – originally it was £18,000 plus VAT but now it is £6,950 plus VAT, with participation in the final free. Entrants can be from anywhere in the world – but have to make it to Bruntingthorpe at their own expense.

The organisers say that all drivers entering are free to call Windsor, Wilson or David Fleming – managing director of organisers Motorsport Etc – any time for advice, introductions to teams or sponsors, or for good deals on coaching. Calling the contest a ‘family’, Fleming wrote on its Facebook page: “We know there will only be one ‘winner’ but we want everyone to feel they have made a step forward in their careers simply by taking part.”

Entrants include Star Mazda championship contender Adam Christodoulou, 2009 Formula Renault UK race winners Dean Stoneman and Jesse Krohn, current Formula Ford Championship of Great Britain top two James Cole and Josef Newgarden, 2009 Formula BMW Americas champion Gabby Chaves, as well as top KF1 karters Ben Cooper, Elliot Burton and Jordon Lennox-Lamb.

A competition is also underway on Driver Database to find three young drivers who will be given free entry into an assessment day during October. So far more than 100 are listed as taking part on the site, and the trio with the most votes by midnight CET on September 30 will go forward to the first round of the shoot-out.

Newgarden, who has taken his assessment day, said: “This is a fantastic programme being created for young, aspiring racing drivers. It was a great day and one that helped to improve my driving style thanks to the coaches’ expertise. You are always learning new things no matter whether you’re a F1 driver or just starting out in karts. I would relish the chance to do anything to improve and build on my foundations.”

Windsor said: “What I love is that anyone can enter. You don’t have to worry about making a short-list. You know you’re going to be evaluated the same way as the winner was at the same preliminary stage. If you do well enough, are prepared to learn, listen, be self-critical and have the physical talent as well as the right attitude, then you will almost certainly succeed.

“It also gives everyone an opportunity to come face-to-face with the world’s best driver coach who can compare them to a database of talent that includes Formula 1 World Champions. So, if you’ve ever wondered ‘Have I got exactly what Kimi Raikkonen had at the same stage of his career?’ then we’ll have the answer.”

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