1990 GARETH REES
OTHER FINALISTS Philip Bate, Steve Brogan, David Cuff, Shaun Nicholson, James Rhodes He says: “The driving assessments involved a few laps in a saloon car with one of the judges – Mika Hakkinen in my case – then driving a car from the formula above that in which you had competed that season, which for me meant the Vauxhall Lotus. It couldn’t have gone any better and my quickest time would have put me comfortably on pole for the previous weekend’s British Vauxhall Lotus race, so a last-minute decision was made to put me in Mika’s F3 car. There wasn’t time to fit me in properly, which wasn’t ideal as I’m significantly shorter than Mika. Wedged in with foam, struggling to reach the pedals properly, barely able to see over the screen and with dusk descending, I set off down the pitlane for my first drive in an F3 car. I was never going to set pole times in those circumstances but it was a great experience to work with the reigning British F3 champion driver and team, and to drive the championship-winning car.
“Although the identity of the winner is kept secret, I did have a couple of indications that gave me cause to feel optimistic. Firstly, at the Mclaren factory they had presented awards to the winners of the physical and driving assessments and I had won both, so I figured it would be a bit odd to win both of those but not the overall award! Secondly, in the reception before dinner, the film director responsible for the evening’s coverage pulled me to one side to tell me where the cameras would be when
I went up to collect the Award!
“There is absolutely no doubt that winning helped my career enormously. Mclaren was the top F1 team at that time and being endorsed by them and Autosport was invaluable, giving my profile and credibility a huge and sustained boost. The relationship I enjoyed with Mclaren through most of the 1990s provided me with great experience, not only in the F1 car but also in learning how to work within a large organisation, receiving assistance with marketing and sponsorship advice and much more. I am proud to have won it and I am grateful for the opportunities and experiences it provided.” WHAT HAPPENED NEXT Won the 1994 Marlboro Masters F3 and ’96 British Formula 2 title before running out of funds and becoming a motorsport commentator