The first-ever winner of the McLaren Autosport BRDC young driver award has been reflecting on its 20 years of promoting British talent.
David Coulthard, who took the award in 1989 when he had just graduated from karting to Formula Ford, says that he remains proud to this day to be a member of what he calls “an extremely select club”.
He went on to race in Formula Three (after taking a year out thanks to a broken leg) before being talent-spotted by Williams and making the move into Formula One.
Other winners to drive at the highest level include Coulthard’s fellow Scot and double IndyCar champion Dario Franchitti, and F1 world champion Jenson Button. Formula One drivers Anthony Davidson and Ralph Firman, as well as McLaren tester Gary Paffett and up-and-coming stars of the future Paul di Resta and Oliver Turvey were all winners.
But there is one glaring omission from the list – Lewis Hamilton was never even nominated.
Coulthard said: “You only have to look at the winners since [his 1989 victory] to see that it has proven very successful in spotting talent. The award boasts champions in Formula 1, IRL, and both sports and touring cars.
“Even now, it’s an award that carries with it a huge amount of importance, honour and prestige – and which is still prized above all others by every young driver competing in the junior ranks of British motorsport.
“I’m tremendously proud to be a member of a very select club that reads like a Who’s Who of British motor racing talent.
“And I’m proud that, although I personally represent the award’s roots, it’s not something that causes us to look back at the past: the McLaren Autosport BRDC Award has always represented motorsport’s future – and that’s why it remains so vital.”
Sunday’s Autosport Awards ceremony, held annually at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel, will celebrate the great and the good of the motorsport year. But for the six BRDC nominees it will be one of the most important nights of their careers so far.
The winner, who will have gone through a lengthy testing and evaluation process including driving a selection of cars in front of the award’s judging panel, will be in line for a prize that includes race funding and a test with McLaren. Both Stefan Wilson and Oliver Turvey, winners in 2006 and 2007, have just completed their tests.
Entered in the 2009 competition are Racing Steps Foundation driver James Calado, Star Mazda champion Adam Christodoulou who is nominated for the second time, James Cole, Callum McLeod, Chrissy Palmer and Dean Smith.