Three members of the British F3 'class of 2009' have been added to the intake for this year's MSA British Race Elite, coming through a tough election process as the scheme's judging panel considered over 50 initial applicants.
Although 20 of those hopefuls went through to the interview last Friday [27 March], just four places were available on the 2009 roll, with four others open in the Race Academy. The independent panel - which included MSA performance director Robert Reid and Williams F1's Jonathan Williams - admitted that they had been faced with a challenging task 'due to the high standard of applicant', which they rated as the best yet in the scheme's three-year history.
“It was really good to see the best of young British talent up close, and the quality of applicant we saw was high, so it was a very difficult decision as a judge to pick just four Elite and four Academy drivers," Reid said, speaking on behalf of the judges, "The scheme is now entering its third year and it will be great to see what the drivers we have picked will gain from the twelve months ahead, [but] there were also a number of drivers who we will be very interested to keep an eye on during 2009, with a view to selection in 2010 for the Elite scheme.”
Both the British F3 and Formula Renault UK championships were well represented among the interviewees and, at the end of the day, F3 runners Wayne Boyd, Oliver Oakes and Nick Tandy were selected - along with FRenault stand-out James Calado - to join the Race Elite programme for the next twelve months.
They slot in alongside F3 Euroseries newcomer - and 2008 McLaren Autosport
BRDC Young Driver Award winner - Alexander Sims and former F3 man Andy Meyrick, who this year joins Colin Kolles' Audi sportscar team in the Le Mans Series. Both Sims and Meyrick remain with the Elite programme for a second year 'in order to further the training and development begun in 2008'.
The parallel Race Academy scheme - introduced in 2008 as a 'feeder' programme offering many of the same development opportunities, but without the individualised one-to-one attention - will mentor a fifth F3 driver, Carlin's Max Chilton, along with FFord James Cole and Kieran Vernon and FRenault UK's Will Stevens.
Meanwhile, former Elite drivers Henry Arundel, Sam Bird, Stuart Hall and Andrew Jordan will become ambassadors for the scheme, representing it in the four different championships in which they will be racing in 2009. Each will be able to attend workshops if they wish to extend the knowledge already gained from being on the scheme, but will not receive any one-to-one training.
“After a long day of intensive interviews, I'm delighted with the new Elite and Academy drivers that the judges have selected," sportscar ace David Brabham, whose Brabham Performance Clinic oversees the Elite scheme, said after meeting with all applicants on Friday, “The quality of the applicants has been very impressive this year, as the scheme has grown in stature and respect throughout the motorsport industry. Having so many quality drivers made it much more difficult for the judges to make a decision, but they did a great job and we very much look forward to working with all of them during the 2009 season.”