Formula 3 Australia has announced the creation of a rookie of the year award for Gold Star competitors designed to recognise new talent and to honour the memory of the late Graham Watson into the future.
The Graham Watson Rookie of the Year award will be presented at the end of each season to the driver who has had the best debut in the Australian Drivers Championship. Drivers eligible for the award will have had no prior extensive experience in 'wings and slicks' race cars at the level of F3 or above, and the winner can come from any of the three classes and will be judged by a panel of experts including F3 Australia team owners, board members, industry experts, an online poll and the media, with the award presented at the end of the season during the championship awards ceremony.
Watson, who sadly passed away last week, was most well known in the industry for his ability to spot, and then nurture, young drivers in wings and slicks racing in Australia and New Zealand. Drivers like David Brabham, Paul Radisich, Craig Lowndes, Mark Webber, Scott Dixon, Will Power and, this year, Tom Tweedie all benefited from Watson's infectious enthusiasm and ambition to find young driving talent.
The formation of the award will ensure that this memory and tradition is remembered well into the future of the CAMS Australian Drivers Championship for the Gold Star.
“Graham was an integral part of Australian open-wheel racing,” 2004 Gold Star winner, and former Ralt driver, Neil McFadyen - another Watson protégé - said,
“He had a huge influence in so many young drivers' lives and careers, including mine. He had a knack for spotting talent and then developing them, bringing them though the ranks. He created opportunities for them as he did for me.
"The incentive announced here today by F3 Australia is a great concept and a great way to remember 'Wattie' and his role in the sport. I know that the driver that wins it this year and each year from now on will be the kind of driver that 'Wattie' would have got behind and given a helping hand though the sport. Because of that, any driver that wins the Graham Watson Rookie of the Year award will receive recognition within the sport as someone special and with a potential successful career.”
McFadyen was part of a Graham Watson tribute presented by F3 Australia at the weekend, driving a classic Ralt RT4 at Wakefield Park before each Gold Star race.