British Formula One rookie Justin Wilson has had his immediate future in the top flight guaranteed by a phenomenal response to the innovative share issue designed to raise money for his seat at Minardi.

Launched at the start of the season, the offer gives investors the chance to at least double their money by investing in the future career of one of Britain's rising stars, and receiving a return on his future earnings. All income related to the Minardi driver's racing will be paid into a limited company, with Wilson being restricted to a personal income of ?50,000 in his debut year, rising to ?75,000 in 2004 and ?100,000 in 2005 and the profits after three years going towards a payout for the investors.

Although a touch speculative at the start of the season, the idea has proved to be so popular that Wilson's manager Jonathan Palmer has now revealed that the company is returning cheques to would-be investors after the offer was over-subscribed.

Palmer confirmed to a news conference yesterday [Wednesday] that the ?1.2million required had been raised, and said that the issue had been oversubscribed by tens of thousands of pounds.

"As this had never been done before, it was quite impossible to judge just how successful the share issue was going to be," Palmer wrote on the Invest in Wilson website, "Of course, I am thrilled with the result - it is immensely satisfying for all involved in the creation of the content of the prospectus, which was a huge amount of work.

"I believe there have been two key elements that have contributed to the success of the issue. Firstly, Justin has earned confidence in his potential by putting in some great performances in his Minardi, proving his pace with some blistering opening laps. Secondly, all the press - and particularly the national newspapers - have provided huge support with recognition and promotion of a new British talent."

According to the website, there are now in excess of 900 investors in Justin Wilson plc, 70 per cent of whom bought the minimum ?500 of shares. Another 20 per cent bought twice that amount, with the remaining 90+ shareholders - including the BRDC - opting for bigger investments. Applicants were predominantly male, with only a 15 per cent take-up amongst female fans.

"I'm delighted and flattered that so many people have chosen to invest in my career," a surprised Wilson admitted, "The response to the share offer and the publicity it has generated has been really amazing - not only here in the UK, but around the world."

Minardi Paul Stoddart was equally impressed by the speed and size of the take-up, and applauded the scheme for the innovative way in which Wilson's future had been secured.

"When Jonathan Palmer came to me with the Justin Wilson plc proposal in December of last year, I embraced it with enormous enthusiasm, as I thought it to be the best idea Formula One had seen in many a long year," the enthusiastic Australian revealed, "With a driver of Justin's impeccable pedigree and undoubted talent, I felt the Invest in Wilson scheme could be nothing but a runaway success.

"I am therefore very pleased [that] it has been just that, and that the share offering is now fully subscribed. Justin's performance has exceeded even my most optimistic expectations but, more importantly, it also has been noted by a number of influential individuals within the world of Formula One."

Wilson is currently being mentioned in the same breath as a possible Jaguar seat alongside former F3000 sparring partner - and Minardi predecessor - Mark Webber for 2004.