A JUDGE’S RE­FLEC­TIONS ON THE AWARD

Autosport (UK) - - MCLAREN AUTOSPORT AWARD - IAN TITCHMARSH, FOR­MER BRDC DI­REC­TOR

It’s a salu­tary thought that the last five win­ners of the Award had not been born when I was first asked to be one of the judges, back in 1995. This was the year after the Bri­tish Rac­ing Driv­ers’ Club, at the in­sti­ga­tion of the then-club sec­re­tary John Fitz­patrick, had joined Mclaren and Autosport as the Award’s stake­hold­ers. Al­ready by then, just six years after its launch, the Award had es­tab­lished it­self as an im­por­tant goal to which ev­ery young Bri­tish driver aspired.

The in­volve­ment of the BRDC had one im­me­di­ate fi­nan­cial ben­e­fit in that the cash prize dou­bled to £50,000. Back then, this was a very worth­while con­tri­bu­tion to the bud­get re­quired for the next step up the lad­der. Un­til re­cently the prize in­creased to £100,000 but has since been re­placed by ben­e­fits in kind.

The BRDC in­volve­ment also meant that the on-track as­sess­ment days could find a home on the Sil­ver­stone Grand Prix cir­cuit where they have re­mained ever since, apart from a four-year ex­ile at Snet­ter­ton from 2005 to ’08 when Jonathan Palmer took on the man­age­ment of the Award. Mo­tor­sport Vi­sion’s man­ag­ing di­rec­tor has been a ma­jor sup­porter of the Award from the out­set, most no­tably since ’10 by mak­ing avail­able the re­quired num­ber of MSV For­mula 2 cars, all pre­pared to MSV’S ex­act­ing stan­dards. In the ear­li­est days the test cars were a cou­ple of For­mula Vaux­hall Lo­tus and later F3 cars, which had to be shared around. Now, each fi­nal­ist has his own car with more power than they will have ex­pe­ri­enced to that point.

The stated aim of the Award has al­ways been to find the next Bri­tish F1 driver, so the prin­ci­pal fo­cus has been on a driver’s per­for­mance in the sin­gle-seater. How­ever, the other cars play an im­por­tant role in show­ing ver­sa­til­ity and, as has hap­pened in sev­eral cases, catch­ing the eye of the likes of Mclaren or Mer­cedes. For many years one of the top Bri­tish Tour­ing Car teams (WSR, Dy­nam­ics, Nis­san) pro­vided a car or two com­plete with one of its reg­u­lar driv­ers. This pro­duced one of the leg­endary per­for­mances of the Award in 1998 when Jenson But­ton started lap­ping a Nis­san Primera as quickly as its reg­u­lar driver, the late David Les­lie, on a sat­u­rated track, their times five sec­onds faster than any other fi­nal­ist’s.

At the mo­ment the UK ap­pears to be on the crest of a wave, with both Ge­orge Rus­sell and Lando Nor­ris about to make the move into F1, while Dan Ticktum is knock­ing on the door.

“THE AWARD ES­TAB­LISHED IT­SELF AS A GOAL DRIV­ERS ASPIRED TO”

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