by Russell Atkins

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Damon Hill has spoken out about the importance of lending a hand to Britain's wealth of young motorsport talent - after helping to launch the British Racing Drivers' Club's Superstars initiative at Silverstone.

The President of the BRDC - and Britain's last Formula 1 World Champion, twelve years ago - revealed that the scheme had attracted more than 200 applicants, and admitted that it had been an extremely arduous decision to narrow those candidates down to just 14 in the final reckoning - two more than had originally been foreseen.

"I think it's extremely difficult to leave people out of the decision," the 47-year-old said, speaking exclusively to Crash.net Radio at the launch. "You want to help everyone. Fourteen is a large group of people, but it just shows you how many good and talented drivers there are in the UK.

"The idea really is to use our expertise and our knowledge base in the BRDC - which has had 80 years of the very best motor racing drivers congregating in the club - and be able to hand that down and make it available to the cream of the talent that is out there in British motorsport at the moment.

"I think that's very important. I remember when I was struggling to get money, that when you're on your own it's a little bit harder than when you're in a group. If you can say you've been selected - not by people who don't know anything about the sport, but by people who know intimately who is good and who's got talent - then that's a fantastic lever on people who you're trying to get to support your career.

"We sincerely hope that we'll be able to do more in the future to put a spotlight on that talent and try to raise funds as well, which will enable them to be in the best equipment. Inevitably not all of these drivers will get to the top of their chosen career paths, but with our advice I do believe they will stand a better chance."

The 14 successful drivers are, in alphabetical order, Jonathan Adam (SEAT Cupra Cup UK), Sam Bird (F3 Euroseries), Wayne Boyd (British Formula Ford), Max Chilton (British F3), Riki Christodoulou (British Formula Renault), Joey Foster and Stuart Hall (both competing in the Le Mans Series in 2008), Ben Hanley (GP2), Mat Jackson (British Touring Car Championship), Jon Lancaster (F3 Euroseries), James Sutton (British GT Championship), Duncan Tappy (A1GP), Oliver Turvey and Stefan Wilson (both British F3).

As Superstars, they will all benefit from track time at Silverstone, educational and engineering workshops, advice on sponsorship and legal issues, media training and mental and physical preparation - all whilst being able to draw upon the experience and expertise of those who have, in the words of BRDC Superstars director Tim Harvey, 'been there, done that and got the T-shirt'.

"There is a strong desire amongst our members for the BRDC to be actively involved in progressing the most promising fledgling professional drivers' careers," added Hill. "The problem has always been that simply providing funds does not prepare a driver for the many extremely demanding and complex challenges that he will face throughout his career, and often renders that investment wasted.

"We felt that the first step had to be to provide sound and reliable experience and unbiased advice as to the way forward for each individual. Providing advice is the first base for what we hope will grow into a thoroughly complete service for the serious-minded driver who has his sights set on the summit of his chosen discipline, be that F1, Champ Cars, Indycars, touring cars, sportscars or whatever".

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