Newly-crowned Spanish F3 Champion M?ximo Cort?s has his sights set on a possible step-up into GP2 next year, and his performances have already attracted the attention of one particularly influential member of both the GP2 and Formula 1 paddock.

The 19-year-old won six races, claimed nine podiums and set four pole positions en route to the Spanish crown with TEC Auto this season - four points clear of team-mate and key rival Marco Barba, and a two place improvement on his 2006 championship position, when he lost out on the title in the very last round. Now that goal has been achieved, he is thoroughly focussed on the next one.

"I don't yet know where I'm going to go," Spanish website www.as.com quotes Cort?s as saying. "It depends on others, but if I could choose I would love to do GP2. It is a very expensive championship, though, and the first year is very difficult considering how little time there is to learn."

Having battled against a lack of funding his entire career, lifting the Spanish F3 laurels was a real shot in the arm for the 19-year-old, whose family has had to make no shortage of sacrifices as he fought his way up from karting into single-seaters and all the way to national recognition.

"I have never had the best equipment," he admitted. "I have always had to be careful to avoid accidents with rivals so as not to risk breaking anything. In 2005 I ran in a Master Junior run by Emilio de Villota. I achieved nine victories - not enough to win me the championship, but Adri?n Campos then called me to do a test in F3."

From that point onwards Campos - who runs his own GP2 outfit Campos Racing - has been Cort?s' manager, while an even more significant ally still could be Renault F1 team boss Flavio Briatore, a man who has taken note of the young star's potential, and one who could help smooth a path for the Madrid native all the way to Formula 1.

All pictures courtesy of www.tec-auto.com

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