World Series by Renault front-runner Oliver Turvey has confessed that without the help and backing of the Racing Steps Foundation, he would not be where he is today – a genuine title challenger in the hotly-fought championship and arguably only a step away from F1.
After graduating from Cambridge University with an undergraduate degree in engineering, Turvey has similarly graduated from British F3 – in which he impressively finished as runner-up at his maiden attempt in 2008 – to the World Series this year, with immediate success. Fourth on his debut at Barcelona was an excellent way to begin his challenge, and that was followed up by pole position and victory around the narrow, tortuous streets of Monaco barely a month later – incredibly on his first-ever visit to the glamorous Principality.
With a further brace of rostrum finishes on home turf at Silverstone last weekend, the 22-year-old has staked his claim to a concerted assault on the laurels with Carlin Motorsport. With four meetings remaining he sits a competitive and threatening fourth in the chase for the crown, comfortably top rookie and just 21 points shy of leader Bertrand Baguette – and, tellingly, four spots and 22 points ahead of team-mate Jaime Alguersuari, the man who pipped him to British F3 honours last season. If it has been a step-up, you would be hard-pressed to tell.
“British Formula 3 is also an international championship,” Turvey contended, speaking exclusively to Crash.net Radio
. “Most of the drivers I was racing against last year were from outside Britain; I was the only top British driver in the championship. British Formula 3 is an extremely competitive championship – looking at where the drivers from that series have gone onto just shows how competitive it was last year.
“Moving up to World Series, it's a European-based, international series and there are some very strong drivers in the championship. It's a very competitive series, and it's going well so far. It's good to be competing against top drivers – it pushes you and you learn more by racing against better drivers, so for me it's extremely positive to be in such a competitive series and to be doing well and winning races.
“The World Series car is very different; it's a lot bigger, it's been a big step-up in power – twice as much horsepower – and there's a lot to learn in the series. I think the biggest thing this year is the tyres; in qualifying on the new tyres we only get one or two quick laps, and to reduce costs this season they've actually reduced our tyre allocation. That has made it even harder for the rookie drivers, because you don't really get to test on new tyres and when you go into qualifying you find so much time on them, but you only get that for one or two laps.
“It's really difficult for the new drivers to learn that area, but I think that's the only area we need to improve on to be honest, because we've had the pace to win all the races. It's just a case of whether we manage to qualify high enough; in Monaco I was able to put it on pole, and from pole I was able to win, so if we can be strong in qualifying – and it's an area in which we're improving all the time – I'm really confident for the rest of the season.
“Obviously it's good to stay with Carlin and I'm really pleased with that; I really enjoyed racing with them last year, but to be honest the World Series team is a totally separate bunch of guys. It's been good working with them – they're a very experienced team, I'm learning a lot and we're working well together, so that's the main thing. Racing on European tracks this year is a new thing – I've got a lot of tracks to learn as well as the car. I've been top rookie in quite a few of the races so far, though, so it's been great. I just need to keep on improving, but as a first-year driver I'm getting stronger with every race.”
That is a daunting prospect for his rivals, but Turvey is quick to point out that had he not been selected as part of the Racing Steps Foundation – an organisation that supports a number of up-and-coming young British stars – he would likely not be on the starting grid at all, and he is quick to praise the RSF for the part that it has played in his career to this point.
“Last year I had a fantastic debut season in British Formula 3 and came very close to winning, finishing as vice-champion,” acknowledged the Cumbrian-born ace. “I was very pleased with that, but it wouldn't have been possible for me to step up to Formula 3 without the help of the Racing Steps Foundation. The same goes for the World Series this season – that wouldn't have been possible without them – so I must thank them for their support.
“Their impact has been huge; without the Racing Steps Foundation I wouldn't have been able to progress beyond the junior formulas. I struggled for so many years in Formula BMW competing on very little budget; it was always very difficult, but we managed to finish as vice-champion despite missing the first six races of the year [in 2006]. That year I obviously got the nomination for the McLaren/Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year
award, which I went on to win; that was a fantastic season, but even after winning such a prestigious award like that, it was very difficult to raise the budget to move onto Formula 3 the year after and I had to complete a year in the Renault Eurocup instead.
“Without the Racing Steps Foundation's support I don't think last season would have been possible, and to race with such a good team as Carlin Motorsport as well was a fantastic opportunity to be given. I took that opportunity and finished as vice-champion, and now obviously the RSF are progressing my career. Without their support I don't think I'd be where I am today.”TO LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW IN FULL: CLICK HERE