Ceccon opts for GP3 challenge in 2012
6 April 2012
Italian teenage racing driver Kevin Ceccon is to challenge for the GP3 championship in 2012, after successfully claiming the Auto GP title in 2011.
Ceccon, 18, competed in half of last year's GP2 Series with Scuderia Coloni before opting to drop out at the halfway point in order to focus on his Auto GP campaign, which he narrowly won over Luca Filippi - who replaced Ceccon in GP2 and went on to finish runner-up in that series, too.
"I am very happy to face this challenge of the GP3 Series with Ocean Racing Technology," said Ceccon. "I can't wait to get started in the Silverstone tests, where I will be able to start working with the crew," he said, adding: "I could conceivably finish in the top three of the championship."
Ceccon will line-up alongside new team mates Carmen Jorda and Robert Cregan, both of whom are also GP3 rookies - as is the team itself, having only entered the series over the close-season replacing former GP3 regulars Tech 1.
Tiago Monteiro, Ocean Racing Technology's team manager, was clearly looking at Ceccon to be the senior member of the line-up despite his age.
"Kevin is a very fast, professional driver," said the former F1 and current WTCC driver. "Despite his youth, he has the necessary experience to successfully enter the GP3 Series and to help his two teammates to evolve. It's a great pleasure to be able to count on him."
Other recent driver signings in GP3 include Japanese racer Kotaro Sakurai joining Status Grand Prix alongside Marlon Stöckinger, Antonio Spavone joining Vicky Piria at Trident, Antonio Félix da Costa signing up at Carlin alongside Alex Brundle, and Atech CRS Grand Prix announcing the signing of Tamás Pál Kiss to pair up with Ethan Ringel as two-thirds of their driver line-up for 2012.
17-year-old Sakurai is the reigning British Formula 3 National Class champion and has been spending the past year testing with Status GP. Team manager Teddy Yip said that he had "watched him mature and grow as a driver. It's a great pleasure to welcome him into the team on a full-time basis in the GP3 Series this season."
Italian racing driver Spavone, also 17, is stepping up into GP3 with Trident after spending 2010 competing in the Italian Formula Abarth Championship. "I know there will be plenty of work to do and I'll face some very experienced drivers," he said at the announcement of his signing. "My goal is to clinch a top-10 spot as fast as possible."
Portuguese driver da Costa already has GP3 experience with Carlin after competing in four races for them in 2010. He's also competed in British Formula Three and last November took part in the GP2 Final exhibition race at Abu Dhabi, as well as working with Force India at the F1 Young Driver tests that followed.
"I'm really looking forward to this season with Carlin - I know the team really well and it get on so well with everyone, it's like a family!" said da Costa. "Our pace in testing has left me confident for the start of the season and I can't wait for the first race in May."
Over at Atech CRS GP, team principal David Hayle was delighted to confirm 20-year-old Hungarian racer Tamás Pál Kiss to the team's line up: "I really believe we have our greatest chance of challenging for the GP3 title this year and I expect he will greatly assist our GP3 rookie Ethan Ringel as he embarks on only his second season in car racing," he said.
Kiss had experience in the Hungarian Formula Renault Championship and Renault 2.0 Suisse before moving to Atech for the British Formula Renault 2.0 series in 2009. More recently he spent 2011 in the GP3 Series competing for Tech 1 which saw him claim a race win in Spain. With Tech 1's departure from the series, Kiss has returned to Atech for 2011 and is very happy to be reunited with old friends.
“I'm really pleased to be returning to a team I know and to be working with some of the people I built up such a good relationship with in 2009/10," he said. “After a successful season last year, it's nice to come back to Atech and after a good test at the end of last season, and a positive pre-season test in Spain recently, I'm confident ahead of the 2012 season."
With the first race of the GP3 Series due next month at Barcelona, the driver line-up is rapidly filling up. Other than RSC Mücke Motorsport - which is yet to confirm any drivers for the 2012 season - there are now only single seats left at Status GP, Jenzer Motorsport, Trident, Carlin and Atech to be filled.
Lotus GP have already announced their trio of Daniel Abt, Conor Daly and Aaro Vainio for the forthcoming season, while MW Arden will be fielding Mitch Evans, David Fumanello and Matias Laine. Marussia Manor Racing's drivers will be Dmitry Suranovich, Fabiano Machado and Tio Ellinas.