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!”

TAN ON SHORTLIST TO BECOME CHINA’S NEXT PORSCHE JUNIOR PROTÉGÉ

TAN ON SHORTLIST TO BECOME CHINA’S NEXT PORSCHE JUNIOR PROTÉGÉ

Weiron Tan is in contention to become Porsche China’s 2018 ‘Junior’ driver, after being selected as one of just seven finalists for a shootout designed to discover the legendary sportscar manufacturer’s next superstar.

Having steered his burgeoning career from single-seaters to sportscars this year, Tan has impressed with his turn-of-speed behind the wheel of Absolute Racing’s Bentley Continental GT3 in both the China GT Championship and fiercely-disputed Blancpain GT Series Asia. His eye-catching pace and prowess saw him secure pole position for half of the races he contested in the China GT Championship and set fastest lap at Zhuhai International Circuit, which brought him to the attention of Porsche China as it weighs up its options for next year’s Porsche Carrera Cup Asia campaign.

Porsche’s young driver programme is a well-proven talent development model in the high-octane world of motorsport, and over the course of its 20-year existence, ‘Juniors’ from the various different Porsche Carrera Cups have gone on to achieve tremendous success for the brand. Previous alumni Timo Bernhard, Marc Lieb and Earl Bamber, for example, can all now count Le Mans 24 Hours victories on their career CVs as Porsche factory drivers. Out of more than 300 applicants from across Southeast Asia, 22-year-old Tan was shortlisted amongst just seven candidates for the comprehensive evaluation process, which was held at Shanghai International Circuit earlier this month. It comprised a rigorous appraisal of on-track ability in a range of road-going Porsches and the race-bred Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (Type 991), as well as physical fitness and media skills.

The road car assessment took place at the newly-built, on-site Porsche Experience Centre (PEC). Asia’s first PEC will only open to the public in January, which meant the seven finalists enjoyed an exclusive early preview of its test-driving course, skidpan, drifting circle and slalom facilities in the manufacturer’s 911 Turbo, 911 Carrera 2S, Macan GTS and 718 Cayman. The objective of the Porsche Junior Programme is to provide aspiring young stars with the guidance and tutelage they need to make the grade as professional racing drivers. As Tan bids to carve a career path to the very pinnacle of international sportscar competition, he is hopeful he has done enough to convince Porsche of his potential.

 

Firstly, I’d like to thank Porsche China for giving me such an amazing opportunity to compete for the chance to become their Junior driver in 2018,” enthused the highly-rated Chinese ace, who is already the official test and reserve driver for FIA World Endurance Championship outfit CEFC Manor TRS Racing and a former member of the Caterham F1 Academy.

The calibre was extremely high and we had a great panel of judges from Porsche to conduct a full and fair assessment over what were three very intensive days. I thought I did a pretty good job, and it was fantastic to finally be in a 911! Until the shootout, I’d never driven a Porsche before, but I’ve always been a fan and the 911 Turbo is undoubtedly one of the best road cars I’ve sampled to-date. We were also very lucky to be the first to try out the awesome new PEC.

The 911 GT3 Cup was a beast in its own right too, quite different from the GT3s I’ve piloted before. The car doesn’t have a lot of downforce, no ABS and no traction control, which means the driver has a major influence over its performance.

The fitness element was intense, and I’m glad my regular training prepared me for that. We were tested to our maximum capabilities in a manner not dissimilar to a standard military exercise, including running, push-ups, chin-ups and core strength. It goes to show how important fitness is in motorsport, because racing drivers need to have a high degree of strength and muscle endurance to withstand the extreme heat and long durations spent in the car.

Such a detailed evaluation underscores Porsche’s outstanding level of professionalism, and just how seriously it regards its Junior Programme. It is no coincidence that the brand has enjoyed more than 60 years of motorsport success all around the globe, and it would be a dream come true to be a part of that incredible story going forward. All I can do now is wait until December when Porsche announces the winner…”