Formula Ford stand-out Josef Newgarden has signed with the Carlin team for this season's inaugural GP3 Series campaign.

The American, who finished as runner-up in last year's Formula Ford UK championship, will partner McLaren Autosport BRDC Award winner Dean Smith and one other, as yet unconfirmed driver, in the British team, having originally considered stepping up to F3 for 2010.

The 19-year old joined Carlin for the second official test at Paul Ricard and was immediately on the pace, setting the sixth fastest time during the mini-qualifying session which was designed to determine the race numbers that the teams will carry on their cars this season.

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"I'm very excited about the season ahead," Newgarden, who had been linked to a Fortec F3 deal, said, "It's great to be involved in the first season of GP3, especially with Carlin, which has such an incredible history of results. I have a good opportunity this year and I want to make the most of it and do the best job possible for myself and the team.

"GP3 is a fantastic championship; following in the footsteps of GP2 - it's very well organised and supporting the European F1 races means it's highly visible as well. If
you're going to do a good job there's no better arena to do it in. The GP3 car is great - very different from anything I've driven previously, but with each lap I'm getting to
grips with the changes and learning the car. I'm looking forward to some tough competition, but already I feel confident we can be strong. I can't wait to get to Barcelona for the first race."

Newgarden won ten races in Formula Ford UK last year, as well as taking four pole positions and an impressive 16 podiums, and also competed in three Formula Palmer Audi races, winning two.

"We watched Josef's progress last year and he's already attracted a lot of interest in the industry," Carlin director Trevor Carlin noted, "I'm delighted that he's chosen Carlin as the team with which to further his career and I believe that GP3 is a great environment for him to hone his skills. GP3 is a big step up for Josef, but he's already proven his ability to adapt to the GP3 car and I'm confident he will be challenging for podiums this season."

Newgarden's deal comes on the eve of the final pre-season test at Barcelona, scheduled for 13-14 April, while the series returns to the Circuit de Catalunya for its season-opener on 8 May.