Liam Venter will make his maiden appearance in the 2013 European F3 Open championship later this month, when he races at Paul Ricard in France in the first of two Winter Series events.

Venter, who is from Johannesburg in South Africa, has inked a deal to compete with Team West-Tec this season after successfully making the jump up from karting to competing in the UK Dunlop InterSteps Championship in 2012.

The 17-year-old will race in the Copa class, piloting a F308 Dallara ran by the Corby-based team. He is also part of Accelerate Driver Development Ltd (ADD), a UK-based leading management organisation with links to several F1 teams.

"I am really, really looking forward to the season," said Venter, who is currently the only South African driver entered in the European F3 Open championship. "To finally drive a Formula 3 car, like so many of my Formula 1 heroes did, and to be able to do that with Team West-Tec, is just such a privilege.

"The professionalism and contagious enthusiasm within the team made me feel like one of the family in no time. I feel that I really gel with the team already and the professionalism compared to anything I have ever experienced is fantastic. There is obviously an expectation to perform well, but that is mutual. It is a really constructive relationship. They make it very easy to perform. I can't wait to get things started."

Venter tested with Team West-Tec twice at the end of last year, running first for two-days at Snetterton, UK and then for three-days at Valencia, Spain.

"We tested in Spain just to get to grips with the car and the team and it went very well," he added. "It is a massive step to move to F3 and I wasn't really expecting it, but you need to make big jumps to accelerate any kind of development. If we do it right it is going to be a very healthy step to make and with the great people I have around me now, including Craig Dolby, my driving coach, I can't wait to see what we can get out of 2013."

Despite his positivity, however, he is realistic about what he is likely to achieve at Paul Ricard, especially as he has never been there before.

"I've obviously had some virtual goes on the circuit, but I have never been on the real thing," he confirmed. "I am approaching the event as a learning experience, although being a competitor I really want to do well too.

"I expect a lot from myself and I am going to do everything to make sure it goes well and that it is a positive event.

"The focus though, is the main championship, which obviously doesn't start until April, but any positive results we can come away with from these two Winter Series events will be an added bonus. We will be looking to improve during the races at Paul Ricard and then at Jerez [March 1-2] and take the chance to get used to the series and test before we compete for 'real' in the proper championship."

Venter is due to depart for Europe on February 10, and he will then be based in London for most of the year.

"South Africa will always be home, and I will come back whenever the schedule allows, but when the events are so close and testing is so crucial, it doesn't make sense to fly back and forth," he explained.

"I want to be able to remain focused and fit and keep my eye on the ball. It is going to be an exciting year."

Indeed, in addition to his outing at Paul Ricard in February, Venter is also heading to Sweden where he will do some driver training on ice. "I'm looking forward to the ice training in Sweden where professional rally drivers concentrate on extreme car control - if this was good enough for Michael Schumacher and Kimi Raikkonen it's certainly going to be good for me!" he concluded.