Fortec Motorsports is one of the most experienced, successful and professional racing teams currently racing in single-seater driver development. I recently had a chat with Senior Team Engineer Mick Kouros while he was in New Zealand for the Toyota Racing Series to gain a bit of insight of what a team like Fortec looks for in a driver as well as his opinion on the current racing scene in Europe and New Zealand.
Motorsport Prospects: What is your background and experience?
Mick Kouros: 45 years in motorsport, experience extends through from race car manufacturing and developing, mechanics to race engineering and team management.
MP: What is the biggest technical obstacle facing drivers moving from karts to cars?
MK: It is the learning and understanding of controlling a much heavier vehicle.
MP: Fortec is known for young driver development and you compete in multiple series from F4 to F3. What do you look for in a young driver when determining how well they will fit in with the Fortec ethos?
MK: The ability to be adaptable, wiliness to learn together with an analytical approach.
MP: Budget is the biggest barrier to participation and advancement in motorsport. What advice can you give a young driver who is not blessed with a millionaire parent as they search for funding to compete in single-seaters?
MK: They need to choose the learning path carefully in order to gain creditable results that will get them noticed.
MP: Is motorsport too expensive?
MK: Some levels in motorsport are certainly too expensive but not all.
MP: What kind of things should a parent look at when evaluating a potential team to sign their child up with?
MK: They should be looking for the best environment for their child to provide the best education and learning as this is the key to driver development.
MP: Fortec is involved in single-seaters but do you see sports cars as a viable path for young drivers who want to be professional race car drivers?
MK: Yes without doubt, but this would be at the right time in driver development and not at the start.
MP: Give us a peek at how Fortec approaches young driver development from a karter just starting in cars? What do you emphasize on track and off?
MK: Fortec puts a great emphasis on having a relaxed family atmosphere; this then provides a no pressure learning environment. On track it’s developing and understanding of the car, maximizing the braking efficiency and driver inputs required producing the best lap times.
MP: Testing is an area where young drivers may struggle. What do you consider to be the key things a young driver should learn from testing? And how important is their feedback with their engineer?
MK: Key areas are not to be in a hurry to be the fastest on track as over exuberance will produce too many off track excursions and this will hinder the learning processes. Developing a good relationship with their race engineer in most cases is the main thing that will produce the best results as they both gain an understanding of each other.
MP: What are your thoughts on the FIA driving pyramid as it stands now as you are involved in both the official series like F4, Regional and national F3 as well as Euroformula. Is it the right way forward? Where do series such as Formula Renault 2.0 fit in? Are there too many single-seater categories?
MK: There are certainly too many categories and it is not sustainable in the current financial state that driver market is in. The pyramid should be simplified, I do believe that one year of Formula Ford gives a great learning experience and then F4 would be the first proving ground before competing in a national F3 championship. The newly named Formula European Masters (FEM) has been a proven progressive step that would then lead to F2. The current F2 should have been replaced with the GP3 car and run as F2. Simply put if I have a very talented driver it would be easy for me being F4, national F3, the FEM and then F2. (But not with the current F2 car, instead the new international F3 as the F2)
MP: What would be the single most important piece of advice you would give a young driver graduating from karts?
MK: Think carefully on the career path that they desire and then be fully committed to the learning presses to become the best driver that they can be.
MP: What are your thoughts on the Toyota Racing Series? What are you doing there?
MK: The Toyota Racing Series is the best place to keep driving and to stay sharp during the European winter; it has some very technical circuits and teaches drivers to be adaptable. The kiwi drivers are very fast on home soil and this also helps to push the competitiveness in young drivers. You need the level of competition to be high in order to become the best driver that you can be and this is provided in within TRS and not in other winter championships that exist. I am at TRS this year with two Fortec drivers in preparation for the European season. Fortec has done this for its drivers many times over the years.
A big thank you to Mick for taking the time to speak to me in the middle of a busy time at the Toyota Racing Series in New Zealand.
The Motorsport Prospects listing for Fortec Motorsports can be found here.