The FIA Institute looks for new stars

The promotion of young talents has until now been done by private individuals, teams, oil companies, car manufacturers, sponsors, national sporting authorities and even special racing foundations, but the international automobile federation has not been involved. That is now changing, with the FIA Institute introducing a Young Driver Excellence Academy, which the federation thinks features the best young drivers in the world, both from racing and rallying. Nineteen have been chosen to take part in a three-day shootout event and from those 10 will be selected to join the Academy programme

To succeed they will have to demonstrate their ability over three days of driving and non-driving assessments. Of the final list of drivers chosen to take part, at least one driver will be selected from each of the FIA Institute’s five funding regions: North, Central and South America; Western and Northern Europe; Central and Eastern Europe; Middle East and Africa; and Asia and Oceania.

The FIA Institute has teamed up with former Formula One star and two-time Le Mans winner Alex Wurz and former World Rally Champion co-driver Robert Reid to lead the Academy selection process and training programme. At the Selection Event in Melk, Austria, they will lead exercises designed to evaluate fitness and performance, media techniques, teamwork and psychology.

The primary goals of the Academy are to prepare young drivers to compete at the pinnacle of the sport; to increase skills in the area of driver and road safety; and to actively promote the principles of safety, fairness and responsibility both on and off the track. The Academy programme is fully funded by the FIA Foundation, and managed by the FIA Institute, as part of the Motor Sport Safety Development Fund’s Young Driver Safety Programme.

Alex Wurz said: “I am delighted that so many young talented drivers have applied to participate in the first ever FIA Institute Academy. It demonstrates that this type of training, focussing as much on the classroom as on the track, is highly desirable for young competitors looking to develop and progress their careers in motor sport.”

Robert Reid said: “It is great to see so many applications from such a diverse background all over the world. We’re really looking forward to meeting those selected for the shoot-out in Austria and putting them through their paces.”

Prof. Sid Watkins, FIA Institute President, said: “The Academy programme aims to ensure that our future stars are not just quick but also have the education and attitude that you need to succeed at the very top level. Alex and Robert have done just that and their contribution is invaluable to this important project.”

Richard Woods, FIA Institute Director General, said: “This is a trial year for the Academy programme but we are already thrilled by the positive response we’ve received so far. We are pleased to be able to help young competitors at this important stage of their development and to do so in a way that ensures that safety is always at the forefront throughout their careers.”

The drivers selected for the event, which will take place between February 6-8, will be chosen from the following candidates:

Kevin Abbring (21) is a Dutch rally driver. In 2007, at the age of 17, Abbring competed in the Dutch championship and also made his World Rally Championship debut. In 2008 he began competing in the Junior World Rally Championship in a Renault Clio R3, with backing from KNAF Talent First programme. He took his first JWRC win on the 2009 Rally Poland, on his way to fourth in the final standings for 2009. In 2010 he won the JWRC in Portugal. He has also competed in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, winning the 2WD category in Ypres and Zlín.

Hamad Ahmed Al Fardan (23) is a Bahraini racing driver. His motor sport career started in 1997 when he was just 9 years old. By the age of 11 he had won his first Bahrain Karting championship. A further two Bahrain Karting championships followed in 2001 and 2002, and in 2003 he finished 4th in the Rotax Max World Finals. At the age of 15, Hamad signed to the Belgravia Formula BMW Team to compete in the FBMW Asia, where he finished third in the rookie standings.

Paul-Loup Chatin (19) is a French racing driver. A proficient skier in his youth, Chatin placed 61st out of 400 during the European Cup in Val d’Isere in the Giant Slalom, and became Vice Champion of the French Ski Schools. He then discovered karting in 2005 and developed strong experience in KF2 at a high level. For the 2010 season, he moved his motor sport career forward into single-seater racing participating in the F4 Eurocup 1.6 where he finished a creditable fourth in the standings with two victories.

Albert Costa Balboa (20) is a Spanish racing driver who started his international karting career in 2004, in the Copa Campeones Trophy for Intercontinental A Junior class karts. He went on to win the Italian Open Masters in 2005 before leaping from karting to Formula Three in 2007, driving for Räikkönen Robertson Racing. But his Formula Three career was cut short by lack of funds and he dropped down to Formula Renault 2.0 to compete in the Eurocup and West European Cup for Epsilon Euskadi. He won the Eurocup in 2009 and graduated to the Formula Renault 3.5 Series in 2010.

Alon Day (19) is an Israeli racing driver who came second in the Israel Karting Championship before moving to Intercontinental A -level events in England and Germany. He graduated to the Asian Formula Renault Challenge in 2008 and won the championship the following season. In 2010, he participated in the German Formula Three Championship, racing with the Performance Racing team.

Philipp Eng (20) is an Austrian racing driver who started karting in 2003, by competing in Intercontinental A Junior karts, the Andrea Margutti Trophy and the Italian Open Masters. He won the Italian Open Masters in 2004 and moved to Intercontinental A level in 2005. Eng made his car-racing debut in the Formula BMW ADAC series in 2006 and went on to win the Formula BMW World Final in 2007. This earned him a test for the BMW Sauber Formula One team, which he undertook in 2008. In 2009, Eng moved up to the FIA Formula Two Championship, where he remained in 2010.

Robin Frijns (19) is a Dutch racing driver who was an active kart racer in Belgium and France. In 2008, he finished third in the KF2 European Championship category and runner-up in the French Championship, at the same level. He began his formula racing career in the 2009 Formula BMW Europe season, finishing third overall in the championship, with a win at Silverstone and six podiums. He continued in Formula BMW in 2010, winning the championship, with six victories.

Adam Gould (23) is a British rally driver. After finishing second in the British Junior Rallycross Championship in 2003, Gould’s first senior rally was the Grizedale stages in 2004, where he won his class first time out. He moved into the Fiesta Sporting Trophy series in 2006 and secured a wildcard entry into the end of year FST International Shootout, which he won. He was then selected for the ‘MSA British Rally Elite’ scheme for 2008 and went on to win the Pirelli Star Driver nomination. He won the Pirelli Star Driver title and with it a Pirelli funded drive in a Subaru Impreza in the British Rally Championship in 2009. He continued to participate in the championship in 2010.

Timmy Hansen (18) is a Swedish racing driver. He had a successful karting career winning the Göteborgs Stora Pris in the Formula Mini class in 2004 and going on to do well in a number of Intercontinental A Junior championships in the following years. In 2007 he won the Viking Trophy in the KF3 class 2007 and went on to become Swedish champion in the KF2 class in 2008. In 2009 he graduated to the Formula BMW Championship and came third in the championship in 2010.

Egon Kaur (23) is an Estonian rally driver who started his motor sport career in 2002. His first competition was an ice-track race in his hometown Pärnu. In 2003, Kaur competed in the Superkross Cup, which he won the following season. In 2005 he won the Estonian Rallycross Championship in the junior class and then moved up to the Estonian Rally Championship, which he won in 2006. He continues to complete in national Estonian rally events, and has also competed in selected rounds of the World Rally Championship, with his debut event in 2008.

Andreas Mikkelsen (21) is a Norwegian rally driver. After turning 17, he started competing in rallies in the UK and won a number of events including the Cambrian Rally, as well as the Saaremaa Rally in Estonia. Mikkelsen debuted in the World Rally Championship at the 2006 Rally GB and in the 2007 season he competed in eight WRC events. In 2010, Mikkelsen competed in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, with a best finish of second on the 2010 Rally Scotland. He also drove a Super 2000 car on three WRC rounds, and won the SWRC class at the season-ending 2010 Wales Rally GB. He will continue to compete in the IRC in 2011.

Josef Newgarden (20) is an American racing driver. He drove a kart for the first time at the age of thirteen and in 2006 he took titles in two classes of the Kart Racers of America – the Junior Yamaha Championship and the TAG World Championship. The same year he started his single-seater career in the Skip Barber Racing School series, where he finished as runner-up in the Southern Regional Series with three wins and another seven podiums. He moved to the British Formula Ford Championship in 2009 and was again runner-up with nine wins. In 2010, Newgarden moved into the GP3 Series.

Norman Nato (18) is a French racing driver. He is a triple champion of the French karting championship and he finished fourth in the 2009 KZ1 World Cup. In 2009, he participated in three karting championships, winning the French championship with five victories over ten races and then finishing eighth in the European Championship in Wackersdorf, followed by his fourth place finish in the World Cup in Sarno. In 2010 he made his single-seater debut competing in the F4 Eurocup 1.6 where he finished second in the championship.

Alexander Rossi (19) is an American racing driver. In 2005 he was semi-finalist in the Red Bull Formula One American Drivers search with a top five finish overall out of over 2,000 nationwide candidates. In 2006 he was awarded the Skip Barber National Scholarship to compete in the Skip Barber National Championship, where he finished third overall and became the youngest winner in championship history, at age 14. Rossi competed in the Formula BMW USA series in 2007 and in 2008 he won the series with ten wins from the fifteen races. He completed the season by winning the 2008 Formula BMW World Championship and was awarded a Formula One test with BMW Sauber F1 Team. Rossi moved to Europe in 2009 to compete in the International Formula Master series and followed this with the 2009–10 GP2 Asia Series. In 2010, Rossi made the move to the GP3 Series where he finished fourth in the standings.

Jan Skala (19) is a Czech racing driver. He began his career as a rally driver with a number of notable successes but recently switched disciplines to circuit racing. He won a number of Czech rallycross championships from 2007 to 2009. He went on to win the Czech Junior Trophy and became the first ever winner of the FormulaSTAR driver academy. In 2010 he switched to circuit racing and was immediately successful winning the European Cup Formula 1400. In 2011, Skala will compete in the Formula Renault North European Cup.

Richie Stanaway (19) is a New Zealand racing driver. Originally from a speedway background, he started competing in stock cars but soon moved into karting where he won the 2007 club championship in Rotax Light before winning the New Zealand SpeedSport Scholarship on his first attempt. For the 2008/09 Season he contested the New Zealand Formula Ford championship, which he won in his rookie year. He then made the jump to the Australian Formula Ford Championship. In 2010, he moved to Germany and won the ADAC Formel Masters season championship.

Molly Taylor (22) is an Australian rally driver. In 2004, she competed in the NSW State Khanacross Championship, in which she finished second in the junior class and first in the ladies class. In 2006, she was selected in the CAMS Women’s Driver Development Program and went on to become the NSW 2WD and 2-Litre Rally Champion. Her efforts were also recognised by CAMS, and she was awarded the NSW Young Achiever of the Year, an award that covers all motorsport disciplines. In 2007 she debuted in the Australian Rally Championship where she won the F16 class. She took the title again in 2008, as well as travelling over to the UK to compete in a round of the British Rally Championship. In 2009, Taylor moved to the UK to compete in the full British Rally Championship in the Suzuki Swift Sport Cup, winning three of the six events. In 2010 she again competed in the British Rally Championship.

Stoffel Vandoorne (18) is a Belgian racing driver. Vandoorne began his karting career in 1998 at age six, and ten years later won the Belgian KF2 Championship. In 2009 he finished as runner-up in the CIK-FIA World Cup in KF2 category. In 2010 Vandoorne moved up to single-seater racing, joining the F4 Eurocup 1.6 series, which he won at the first attempt, taking six wins from fourteen races in the process. In 2011, he will graduate to Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup.

Joni Wiman (17) is a Finnish driver with a multi-disciplined background, having competed in karting, rallying and circuit racing. He also took part in the “jokamiesluokka”, which is a series driven on different types of tracks in Finland. In 2008, Wiman came second in the European Championship in karting. He went on to compete in the ADAC Formel Masters-series in Germany and followed this with a drive in the 2010 Formula Renault UK Winter Series.

The test and training process will see the participants split into groups and taken through a timetable of driving and non-driving assessments by Academy examiners. Driving assessments include several sophisticated driving skill tests and competition sections. Off-track assessments include fitness, media techniques, teamwork and psychology.

12 thoughts on “The FIA Institute looks for new stars

  1. Great to see Molly Taylor on the list. She’s a bit of a talent and also daughter of Coral Taylor, Australian rally champion (codriver).

  2. All very worthy and done no doubt with the very best of intentions, but it isn’t going to make it any easier for the racing drivers to get an F1 seat. As we have seen this year talented racers can easily get passed over in favour of well backed drivers simply because the teams need money so badly, maybe a more equitable split of the tv rights would go some way towards stopping this rather unfair trend.

  3. It’s not like there is a shortage of young talent. This group, too, will either have to find sponsors or end their careers.

  4. Erico
    Yes maybe, but very necessary for success.
    Do we miss Kimi Rikonen’s easy wit and charm in interviews? No we don’t, it didn’t exist.
    A week with Jackie Stuart should sort them out!

  5. Following TimW’s comment, I would be interested if the support by this Academy also includes hard cash, allowing these talents to be ‘placed’ with a team in GP2, WSR, GP3, F3 etc.

    I don’t know much about the rally drivers listed but some of the racing drivers happen to be just those talents overlooked by the respective ‘junior programmes’ but still worthy of reaching the top level all the same. By these I mean Rossi, Costa, Frijns, Vandoorne, etc.

    A coincidence? I don’t think so.

  6. TimW, Proesterchen and md, you make some good points and thankfully the Institute addresses some of these. In the curriculum there’s a course for FIA Safety Instruction, so even if the youngsters don’t make it into F1 (and some of them aren’t aiming for that because they’re rally drivers), they can get a job helping road drivers more skilful.

    Some of the curriculum elements (including sponsorship and marketing) look directed at building young drivers’ skills in getting funding. This is a good thing, though it is to be hoped that “media skills” means “letting the driver’s true personality shine through without them making complete idiots of themselves, their teams or their sport” rather than “turn everyone into an identical drone that says the right thing but inadvertently shuts off possible connections with the fans”.

    However, I don’t think any hard cash is handed over. It wouldn’t be economical for the FIA to do so. Probably the best it can do is guarantee tests with whichever F1 team needs the FIA’s favour most in a given year.

  7. Just a Question, What constitutes the selection process> Who is paying for the program? The drivers and, or, their sponsors or FIA. Makes a difference…..

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