British kart star Ollie Gray joins WH Sports ahead of single-seater debut

Rising British motor racing star Ollie Gray has added another string to his bow ahead of his single-seater debut with Fortec Motorsports in the F4 British Championship certified by FIA – powered by Ford EcoBoost this year, after joining WH Sports’ stable of talented athletes.

The forthcoming campaign will represent Gray’s graduation to car racing, following a tremendously successful stint in karts. In 2019, the Chipstead-born ace won both the prestigious Motorsport UK Kartmasters Grand Prix and British Kart Championship at X30 Junior level, while simultaneously finishing as runner-up in the IAME Euro Series.

Last year, Gray stepped up to the international stage full-time under the colours of Ferrari Formula 1 driver Charles Leclerc with the Leclerc by Lennox Racing outfit. Contesting both the FIA World and European Championships as well as various WSK competitions in the OK class, he notably sped to an eye-catching victory in the WSK Euro Series at Sarno in Italy.

Now, the 15-year-old is ready to accelerate his career up through the gears after signing to race for reigning champions Fortec in Britain’s FIA Formula 4 series, which benefits from the considerable kudos and exposure of being on the ITV4-live televised British Touring Car Championship package. Not only that, but it has in the past helped to catapult the likes of current McLaren Formula 1 ace Lando Norris onto the fast track towards superstardom.

As Gray prepares to take his own first steps on the FIA single-seater ladder, the highly-rated Surrey teenager will do so with the full support of WH Sports – an organisation that has already carved out an enviable reputation in the industry for spotting and nurturing future motorsport stars. The ten-weekend British F4 season will get underway at Hampshire’s high-speed Thruxton Circuit on 8/9 May.

Ollie Gray, Athlete, WH Sports, said:

“This is a big year for me and my career. Having achieved success in karting – both nationally and internationally – I am well aware of the importance of maintaining that momentum as I move into cars. I obviously have a lot to learn in single-seaters, but I’m confident of being able to do so quickly and having a team of people around me to guide and support is a resource that will be absolutely vital. I am really happy for that to be WH Sports.”

Chris Harfield, Director, WH Sports, added:

“There’s no question that Ollie has been one of the top British karting talents in recent years, and we are delighted to be representing his career. He has excelled on the world karting scene and is now ready to tackle the next stage of his burgeoning career in British F4.

“With Richard [Dutton – Team Owner] and the entire staff at Fortec around him, Ollie will have a great environment in which to learn and progress. Fortec are hugely experienced at bringing promising young drivers on – you only need to look at some of the guys that have raced for them before, like Charles Leclerc, Max Verstappen and Stoffel Vandoorne, and what they have since gone on to accomplish to appreciate the team’s enviable track record of success.

“Ollie has already conducted a number of tests in the car, the results of which have been very encouraging, and I have no doubt that he has a very exciting year ahead of him!”

Bearman joins VAR for 2021 FIA F4

Up-and-coming racer Ollie Bearman has taken a big step in his motorsport career by signing for leading FIA F4 team, Van Amersfoort Racing (VAR).

Chelmsford-based Bearman caught Van Amersfoort Racing’s eye during the course of a successful rookie season last year, with wins in both the German and Italian FIA F4 Championships. With VAR, Bearman should be granted many more opportunities to add to his victory tally in 2021 – not to mention challenge for title glory.

His results last year were achieved despite having the shortest preparation time for the campaign – only racing due to a pandemic-enforced delay in the motorsport calendar that allowed him to turn 15 just in time to compete in FIA F4.

His move to single-seaters was made with a mere handful of tests under his belt, yet he still out-raced and out-qualified many more experienced drivers, scoring several podiums in addition to his two wins.

VAR is a multiple title-winning outfit and following such an impressive first season in cars, the team’s CEO Rob Niessink said he was extremely happy to have Bearman on-board.

“While we were on our way to winning the championship with our Red Bull Junior drivers last year, Ollie was one of the guys always giving us a hard time, and when we subsequently tested with him in December, we immediately ‘clicked’, giving both sides confidence that our co-operation would be successful,” Niessink said. “With Ollie, alongside the other drivers that we will announce soon, we know we again have a strong line-up to fight for the title. Let’s go for it!”

Bearman’s success last year came off the back of clinching both the Junior European and Junior World karting crowns in the X30 class in 2019. The King Edward VI Grammar School student also had a triumph in the X30 Winter Cup in Valencia to his name, before taking the step up to single-seaters.

On this latest move, Bearman said: “I’m really pleased to be joining VAR for the 2021 season in F4. We had a very positive test at the end of last year and I am confident that we have the ability to be really strong together. There are a lot of good teams and drivers in F4, but our goal is to finish 2021 with a championship title. I am looking forward to getting on-track and preparing with the team for a big season ahead.”

Sophia Floersch joins WH Sports athlete roster

Rising German racer Sophia Floersch is the latest addition to WH Sports’ stable of talented athletes, further endorsing the credentials of an organisation that has already carved out an enviable reputation in the industry for spotting and nurturing motorsport stars, while brokering major sponsorship deals at the very highest levels of global sport.

Following a formative career in karting, Floersch initially made a name for herself in the BTCC-supporting Ginetta Junior Championship in 2015, re-writing the record books at Thruxton by becoming not only the youngest driver ever to triumph in the single-spec series, but also the first rookie to win both races over the course of a single weekend.

The following year, she continued to make waves as the first female competitor to score points in Germany’s ADAC Formel 4 single-seater championship – this time on her debut. Two races later, she very nearly reached the rostrum.

A second season in the series in 2017 yielded a brace of podium finishes and fastest laps, before Floersch was catapulted firmly into the global spotlight – quite literally – on 18 November, 2018. While contesting the famous Macau Grand Prix, contact with another car on the main straight resulted in a front-left suspension failure that pitched her sideways into the notorious Lisboa Bend at more than 170mph. Flying over the catch fencing, the spectacular impact left the 20-year-old with a spinal fracture that required surgery.

Demonstrating her steely resolve to succeed, barely 100 days later, Floersch was back behind the wheel and back on-track, in recognition of which, she was presented with the ‘World Comeback of the Year’ accolade at the prestigious Laureus World Sports Awards.

Last year, she again made history – twice – as the first woman to race in the current FIA Formula 3 Championship and as a member of the first all-female crew to enter the LMP2 category in the legendary Le Mans 24 Hours, widely regarded as one of the toughest races on the planet. Sharing the Richard Mille Racing Team prototype with Tatiana Calderón and Beitske Visser, the Bavaria-born ace impressively placed ninth in-class out of the 17 LMP2 finishers, underscoring her raw pace, rapid learning abilities and versatility.

As she prepares to take the next step in her career in 2021, Floersch will do so with the full support of WH Sports – and she is excited to begin working with the agency.

Sophia Floersch, Official Athlete, WH Sports, said:

“I am very happy to be working with WH Sports moving forward. It’s important in such a relationship that we enjoy working together and share the same mindset. I want to drive for the best teams to have the best chance of winning. I want to get to the top and I am going to do everything I can to achieve that. I will participate in every training and preparation session, simply because I love it.

“I think in WH Sports, I have found the right agency and most importantly, the right people to help me to reach my maximum – from the management side to coaching both at and away from the track, nutrition and mental help. They will help me in every small aspect to make me a better all-round athlete.

“For me, it’s important to be able to prove what I am capable of – winning and driving great races. Motorsport is about opportunities and making the best of them, and WH Sports will help me to secure those opportunities to show what I can do. The upcoming years are very significant for my career, and it’s good to have people with a lot of knowledge about the sport around me. This isn’t about being the best woman – it’s about beating the men.”

Chris Harfield, Director, WH Sports, added:

“We are all delighted and excited to welcome Sophia on-board at WH Sports. Since the start of her career, Sophia has achieved great things in motorsport. Her focus and determination to reach the very top of the sport is something I really admire, and she is a great role model and example to future generations of motor racing drivers. She works extremely hard on the track and equally hard off the track, being a brand ambassador for many multi-national companies. At the age of just 20, Sophia is breaking records in every series she enters, and we have no doubt that trend will continue.

“The accident in Macau would have ended the career of many a less determined driver, but above all else, Sophia is a fighter and she simply refused to let it hold her back or define her. Her attitude and approach are exemplary, and in what has traditionally been a male-dominated sport, she is increasingly breaking down barriers and outperforming her male counterparts in equal machinery.

“Sophia has no interest in being the best female driver on the grid – she wants to be recognised, irrespective of gender – and for that, she is to be thoroughly commended. We have assembled a team around Sophia that will equip her with everything she requires to continue forging her way to the pinnacle of the sport, and we are looking forward to our journey together!”

WH Sports appoints ex-F1 Sporting Manager to fulfil key management role

Multi-faceted sports agency WH Sports has appointed Enzo Mucci as its Sporting Director, with the former single-seater and sportscar racer set to head up the organisation’s driver development programme going into 2021.

Mucci began his motorsport career behind the steering wheel, winning multiple national championships prior to specialising in sport-specific performance coaching in 2004.

Between 2004 and 2006, Enzo served as a BMW Scholarship Programme Coach, stepping up to the role of BMW European Chief Coach for the following two years. From 2008 to 2010, Mucci was a Performance Coach for Gravity Sport Management, before joining Lotus Renault F1’s Junior Team as Sporting Manager between 2010 and 2012.

Over the past two decades, the 44-year-old Briton has worked with drivers that have competed in Formula 1, North America’s IndyCar Series, the FIA World Endurance Championship (FIA WEC), the pan-European DTM touring car series and FIA Formula E, including 2020 F1 stars Esteban Ocon and Romain Grosjean, two-time DTM Champion Marco Wittmann, fellow DTM front-runner Christian Vietoris and Formula E race-winner Alexander Sims.

Mucci leverages his experience and expertise to help drivers improve their mental strength, technical understanding and performance both inside and out of the cockpit, teaching them the specific personal skills required to win in motor racing and forge a successful long-term career in the sport.

His appointment by WH Sports adds to the kudos of an organisation that has already carved out an enviable reputation in the industry for spotting and nurturing the next generation of motorsport stars, while simultaneously brokering high-profile sports sponsorship agreements.

 

Enzo Mucci, Sporting Director, WH Sports, said:

“I have always admired the way in which WH Sports has helped drivers over the years. The WHS team offers a truly professional service, which is evident in the outstanding results its drivers have achieved across a variety of championships and disciplines.

“For a driver to succeed, it is imperative that they have the right people around them. They need a team of people who are commercially astute, have a large network and can help to improve their overall performance. In joining WH Sports, I can confidently say that we can give drivers everything they need to develop and maintain a successful racing career.”

 

Chris Harfield, Director, WH Sports, added:

“We are immensely proud to confirm Enzo as WH Sports’ new Sporting Director. He has been a leading professional in relation to developing top-class drivers for more than two decades, and he brings a wealth of experience and expertise to the table, to assist both our current and future drivers.

“As Sporting Director, Enzo will be overseeing the ‘on-track’ aspects of our drivers’ careers and ensuring that the environments in which we place them, provide them with the opportunity to succeed. Whilst as an agency, we believe we are an industry leader in the commercial and sponsorship space, Enzo’s appointment will enable us to provide our drivers with an edge on the sporting side, which is something we are all really excited about.”

REBELLION RACING ACE DENIED PODIUM BY MECHANICAL MISFORTUNE

REBELLION RACING ACE DENIED PODIUM BY MECHANICAL MISFORTUNE

Gustavo Menezes put on a spectacular show for the appreciative home crowd in last weekend’s 1,000 Miles of Sebring – round six of the fiercely-disputed 2018/19 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) – but mechanical woes ultimately denied the talented young American a popular podium result.

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AMERICAN MENEZES MAKES HISTORY IN SILVERSTONE

AMERICAN MENEZES MAKES HISTORY IN SILVERSTONE

Gustavo Menezes made history at Silverstone last weekend (17-19 August), becoming the first American driver ever to win a race outright in the fiercely-disputed FIA World Endurance Championship courtesy of a scene-stealing back-to-front charge through the field.

Competing for Rebellion Racing, Menezes – the 2016 FIA WEC Champion and Le Mans winner at LMP2 level – is swiftly establishing himself as a force to be reckoned with this season in the headlining LMP1 class of sportscar racing’s premier global series. Following consecutive third-place finishes at Spa-Francorchamps and Le Mans, the talented young Californian travelled to the celebrated ‘Home of British Motor Racing’ – a circuit at which he has always excelled – fired-up to maintain his rostrum run. Menezes duly set the fastest lap time of the six Rebellion drivers in free practice – his team-mates notably including overall Le Mans winners and World Champions Neel Jani and André Lotterer – and in FP1, he even outpaced three of the factory Toyota drivers for good measure, Formula 1 hero Fernando Alonso amongst them.

The highly-rated Santa Monica native subsequently partnered Mathias Beche in qualifying to put the No.3 Rebellion-Gibson R-13 prototype fifth on the starting grid for the six-hour showdown, as he once more circulated quicker than any of his stablemates – this time, to the tune of nearly eight tenths-of-a-second.

Mere moments into the race, however, Beche found himself turned around by Stéphane Sarrazin in one of the SMP Racing cars – for which the Frenchman received a drive-through penalty – sending the Rebellion plummeting down the order to the very foot of the field. In front of an enthusiastic crowd of more than 60,000 spectators, the Swiss ace immediately initiated what would turn into a spectacular recovery drive, and when he handed over to Menezes at the end of an action-packed opening hour, the crew were up to fifth. His 23-year-old team-mate continued to chase down the sister Rebellion in third and the SMP in fourth, consistently closing the gap as he produced a series of scintillating lap times rapid enough to rival those of the race-leading Toyotas. All of that good work looked to be for nought, though, when an ill-timed safety car intervention shortly before mid-distance dropped the No.3 entry almost a full lap behind its two adversaries, and it required a herculean effort from Beche, Thomas Laurent and Menezes to haul the car back into podium contention.

After Laurent shook off the SMP threat, 2016 FIA WEC ‘Revelation of the Year’ Menezes returned to the cockpit for the final hour, and he had more than halved a 1m12s deficit to Jani when the latter was forced into the pits with 15 minutes remaining to fix a defective rear light, prompting a switch in positions.

 

The Williams-Harfield Sports Group protégé went on to take the chequered flag third, but when both Toyotas were later disqualified following technical checks, Rebellion became the first privateer team to win an FIA WEC race outright since 2012 – vaulting its No.3 driving trio to within two points of the World Championship lead.

In evidence of the key role he played in the result, Menezes completed four of the nine stints himself and posted a best lap time almost half-a-second out-of-reach of anybody else – making him the fastest Rebellion driver weekend-long in another supremely impressive performance.

I’m absolutely ecstatic,” enthused the former Jim Russell Driver Scholarship Award winner. “I haven’t felt this happy for so long. It’s my first win since COTA last year, and it feels very special. Having spent a while living in the UK during the earlier stages of my career, Silverstone is something of a ‘home’ track for me and it’s a great feeling to take my first LMP1 victory there.

Obviously it wasn’t the ideal way to do it, but ultimately, winning a race is winning a race, no matter how it comes and we will grab this result with both hands. All the boys at Rebellion have worked so hard to get the whole LMP1 project off the ground and to develop the car to the stage where it is now, and they really deserve this one-two finish. I’m immensely proud of everybody involved in the programme.

The race certainly wasn’t without its dramas and setbacks for us, from the contact at the start to the safety car appearance midway through that threatened to derail our podium challenge altogether. That was hugely frustrating. I was in the car at the time and making inroads into the battle for third, when the leading Toyota went by to lap us literally seconds before a Full Course Yellow was thrown, which left us virtually an entire lap behind the two cars ahead. After that, I had no choice but to get my head down and push like hell, and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment.

The pace was really good in my first two stints, and the team asked if I would be fit to get back into the car for the race’s final hour. It’s always an honour to be offered the opportunity to bring it home, so I said, ‘let’s give it a shot’. In the meantime, Thomas had cleared the SMP and slashed the gap to third place from more than 1m40s to 1m12s, which remained a tremendously tall order but I knew I just had to dig as deep as I could and see what was possible. The R-13 felt incredible, which allowed me to quickly settle into a really strong rhythm and I’d got the difference down to only 26 seconds when Neel hit trouble.

The Equivalence of Technology regulations still evidently aren’t where they need to be, but all we can do is keep performing to the best of our ability and hope the FIA and ACO address the situation. As a team, there’s no question that we’re more competitive than we’ve ever been, with all three drivers working together extremely well. Ultimately, we know we gave it absolutely everything at Silverstone, and to have fought through the field from the back of the pack to win the race is nothing short of mind-blowing…”

CONWRIGHT ‘KEEPING FEET ON THE GROUND’ AFTER PROMISING TESTING PACE

CONWRIGHT ‘KEEPING FEET ON THE GROUND’ AFTER PROMISING TESTING PACE

Jaden Conwright is remaining level-headed as he prepares to make his debut in the inaugural F3 Asian Championship certified by FIA at Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia this weekend (13-15 July), after lapping an encouraging second-quickest in the official pre-season test.

The first driver to commit to the all-new series back in May, the American teenager will compete for Absolute Racing behind the wheel of a high-performance, 270bhp single-seater, with a grid of 17 drivers representing ten different teams confirmed for the fast-approaching curtain-raiser. Conwright – a former World Speed Motorsports Rising Star Award recipient, rookie class podium-finisher in the fiercely-disputed Italian F4 Championship and Carlin Academy member – tested for Absolute Racing in Shanghai last winter, impressing the multiple race-winning outfit with both his strong work ethic and pace.

The 19-year-old carried that eye-catching form over to this week’s group test at Sepang, lapping inside the top four more often than not and placing an excellent second in the final session – arguably the most representative given that all competitors were on new tyres at the same time. The only driver to go quicker was Jake Hughes – a man with race-winning credentials in both the GP3 Series and FIA Formula 3 European Championship – leaving Conwright feeling quietly confident ahead of the opening round.

 

It was good to finally be back at a race circuit as a driver, and now I can’t wait to return to the cockpit for the weekend,” the Californian enthused. “I’ve always followed Asian motorsport closely, and I’m really happy about what the FIA has managed to pull together in just a few months. The car looks amazing and the championship itself is going to be very competitive. The overall level of the teams is very high and most of the drivers have a lot of experience, with some of them arriving from really prestigious series.”

That is a great source of motivation for me and for Absolute Racing. We share a common goal – since my first test with them, I had no doubt this was the best team for me at this stage in my career. They are ultra-professional and extremely structured and efficient, and we felt a great chemistry and synergy straightaway.

It’s still too early to fully assess where we are at the moment, but the team have been working like crazy to put the cars together so I’m pleased we didn’t encounter any issues during the test and now the guys can rest a little before the weekend. I literally cannot thank them all enough for the support they have given us. We spent the two days learning the car and seeing how it behaves in different weather conditions. There were some ups-and-downs, but at the end we managed to produce some good performances, which is obviously positive. It was cool to see my name in second position between drivers like Jake Hughes and Raoul Hyman, but this is only testing and we need to keep our feet on the ground.

I will enter the first race weekend aiming for a strong result, but not expecting it. The championship will be very strong and very close, so remaining focussed and continually looking for ways to improve will be the best approach. There are a lot of uncertainties with a brand new series and a new car, but the objective has to be to hit the ground running from day one.”

 

The 2018 F3 Asian Championship will take in 15 races spread across five rounds – to be held at Sepang as well as China’s Ningbo International Speedway and Shanghai International Circuit between now and the end of November.

The region’s first F3 series to be officially sanctioned by world motorsport’s governing body will form part of the FIA’s new open-wheel ladder of progression, with the top eight drivers in the final standings all earning points towards qualification for a Formula 1 superlicence. In evidence of its stature, competitors will accrue the same number of superlicence points as their counterparts in the likes of the DTM, Super GT and World Touring Car Cup.

Having nurtured Conwright through the formative stages of his career in America and Europe, Williams-Harfield Sports Group Director Chris Harfield is convinced that his highly-rated young protégé has what it takes to make a real name for himself in the burgeoning new series.

We were already considering a programme in Asia for Jaden in 2018, and when we heard about the inaugural F3 Asian Championship, we had no doubts this was the path to take,” he explained. “The new engine and chassis package is a big step forward for the series, and championship organiser Top Speed has demonstrated a solid understanding of the motorsport industry.

The FIA has pushed a lot with this project and we believe we will see more and more drivers and teams racing in this part of the world. The Asian market is currently booming and we haven’t yet seen its full potential.

Since we started working with Jaden, he has grown and developed both on and off the track and we cannot wait for this exciting new adventure to begin. During the last two years, Jaden focussed on the consistency of his performances, while always aiming higher. Collaborating with top-flight teams and organisations has given him the opportunity to compare himself against some of the best junior drivers in the world and he is ready for this next chapter.”

A new championship always brings with it new challenges, but we are confident that both Jaden and Absolute Racing have the hunger and determination to make this season a success.”

19 YR OLD JADEN CONWRIGHT CONFIRMS FOR FIA F3 ASIA

19 YR OLD JADEN CONWRIGHT CONFIRMS FOR FIA F3 ASIA

The inaugural F3 regional Asian championship calendar includes 15 races – three at each of the five rounds – at Malaysia’s Sepang International Circuit, and China’s Ningbo International Speedway and the Shanghai International Circuit.

The season will kick start with an official test on July 9 and 10 in Sepang. Commenting on joining the team Jaden Conwright said:

I can’t thank Ingo, Fabien, and the entire Absolute Racing team enough for the wonderful opportunity to compete in the inaugural F3 Asian Championship certified by FIA! From the first time we worked together there was great synergy and atmosphere. We all strived for the same goal. Absolute Racing’s professionalism allowed me to improve my driving in a very structured and efficient manner. There are a lot of uncertainties with a brand-new championship and a new car, but there’s no doubt that Absolute Racing and I will be ready to hit the ground running from day one at Sepang.

Ingo Matter, Team Director, added,

We are delighted to announce Jaden Conwright as our first Formula 3 Asian Championship driver. When he tested with our Formula Masters Series car in Shanghai, Jaden’s display and professional approached impressed everyone. With his speed never in doubt, our goal is to provide him with the necessary tools to be able to battle for the top positions in every race.”

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