The Many Emerging Paths to Race Driver Development

This week you will learn about the many emerging paths to race driver development as the sport embraces exciting new ways to develop race drivers.

From a sim racing competition that results in a real-world race drive to an electric karting series that is working to enable a 1000-fold increase in motorsport participation, there are exciting developments in this week’s Driver Development Roundup.

You will also find out about the importance of grassroots motorsport, a program to develop race engineers and how Williams Esports is teaming up with Motorsport UK to develop sim racers.

All this and more in this week’s Driver Development Roundup on Motorsport Prospects. Its news aspiring race drivers can use.

The Radical SR1 chase competition was the culmination of Prodigy Week and Gustavo Ariel of Brazil (also our first Prodigy Pass winner) took the checkered flag! Nathan Saxon finished second, and Laurens Beerten and Garrett Lowe tied for third. All 12 Prodigy Week drivers performed incredibly well in the Radical SR1 and proved once again that skills transfer from e2Real.

Racing Prodigy’s first ever Prodigy week concluded with the crowning of Gustavo Ariel as the first-ever Racing Prodigy winner.

Prodigy Week wasn’t just about digital racing; it was an all-encompassing experience. The sim racers were put through a rigorous training regimen, covering a wide range of disciplines, including fitness, on-camera interviews, skid pad handling, autocross challenges, kart racing, data performance reviews, and, ultimately, competing in Radical SR1s on the main racetrack. Over the course of the event, they completed an astounding total of more than 850 laps, equivalent to more than 1,700 miles. These aspiring racers had the privilege of being coached and trained by a remarkable lineup of motorsport legends, including former F1, IndyCar, and NASCAR driver Max Papis, NASCAR and Indy 500 driver Boris Said, racing icon Randy Pobst, race car driver and engineer Andrew Carbonell, NASCAR driver Jesse Iwuji, NASCAR driver Connor Zilisch, and pro driver champion Kenton Koch.

Gustavo Ariel, reflecting on his strategy for the final race, said, “My strategy going into the final race was to warm up my tires quickly and do a fantastic lap one to close that gap and consistently race throughout.” Ariel was not only a champion on the track but also the first Prodigy Pass winner on iRacing during the first part of Season 1. He added, “It’s been a great experience this week, so I would encourage sim racers to join Racing Prodigy as I wish when I was younger I had opportunities like this to compete on this level. I can’t wait for the draft.”

The event appears to be a success with coverage in mainstream publications such as Forbes and the announcement that there will be a second Prodigy Week in 2024 according to Winding Road Magazine.

The exciting journey of these sim racers is far from over. Racing Prodigy has big plans for the future. They intend to host a second Prodigy Week in early 2024 to conclude Season 1 with a new class of Prodigy Pass winners, creating a pool of the world’s most talented drivers from which PRL teams will draft. These drafted racers will receive paid contracts to compete in PRL’s first real-world racing series in the United States, scheduled to launch in 2024.”

Driver Development Roundup

Loughborough College has teamed up with Williams Esports and Motorsport UK to deliver new opportunities in the Esports sector to budding drivers as part of a unique education partnership.

The nationally leading initiative will enhance Motorsport UK Academy’s performance pathway programmes delivered from Loughborough College.

Motorsport UK, the governing body for motorsport within the United Kingdom, has recently opened up its Academy programme, a broad structure for young talent to reach elite levels of motorsport, to include Esports drivers. Williams Esports will assist Motorsport UK with the identification of the drivers and will provide industry expertise and coaching. Loughborough College will in turn give greater structure with a dedicated qualification aligned to DiSE, the Diploma for Sporting Excellence, which can be followed alongside sporting commitments.

The partnership will form the Motorsport UK National Sim Racing Performance Centre supported by Williams Esports at Loughborough College.

You can find out more about the program here. You should also be reading my Sim Racing Roundup published every Wednesday for more articles like these. Sim racing is becoming a viable path to real-world motorsport.

Global Karting League

Ex-F1 engineer Rob Smedley has re-branded his Total Karting Zero electric karting series into the Global Karting League with the aim of democratizing motorsport on a global scale. The Global Karting League aims to cut the cost of aspiring racers’ karting careers by up to 96%, enabling a 1000-fold increase in participation and it seeks to create 50 national ‘hubs’ worldwide, the first being already operational in the UK.

My premise is that the fastest driver ever has never actually sat in a racing car. If you take a ball sport like football, or rugby, or any of them, at the grassroots, at the national level or an academy level, if there was £100,000 or €100,000 or $100,000 price tag, we certainly wouldn’t see players like Neymar, Lionel Messi, David Beckham, all of those great players that come through from a fairly diverse and let’s call it a democratised background. We want to simplify the grassroots of the sport, we want to make it more equal. We want to open up the participation so that the organic output is that we get more talent coming through from a more diverse cohort.”

Rob Smedley

Here are three articles that give further background on his initiative. You can find out more details at the Global Karting League website:

Pitlane Developments looks at the importance of grassroots motorsport.

So, some of you are probably wondering “What exactly is Grassroots motorsports?” In simple terms, it provides entry access to amateur racers and contains just about anything that has a motor. It helps provide drivers with experience to add to their portfolio to propel themselves up the ranks. While the motorsport world often spotlights its renowned series like F1 or IndyCar during the weekend, the hidden gem that is Grassroots racing provides viewers with constant fierce action on the track. It’s not just the racing that sets it apart. The pure passion and raw devotion of motorsports provides an electric atmosphere to be around.”

Driver Development Roundup

British GT racer James Wallis has been selected as the new Porsche Carrera Cup GB Junior for the 2024-25 seasons after impressing in a shootout at Silverstone earlier this month.

Creating our shortlist of four drivers to take part in our shootout was tougher than ever,” said Porsche GB motorsport manager James MacNaughton. “The finalists each performed with grit and determination on the day, justifying why they deserved their place. The finalists each performed with grit and determination on the day, justifying why they deserved their place. James nosed ahead of the competition and we’re excited to begin working with him. You only have to look to our most recent Porsche Carrera Cup GB Juniors to see evidence that the role has become a proven route to international motor racing success.

I’m certain that James will thrive as he seeks to emulate those who have gone before him, representing Porsche both on and off the track over the next two years – we look forward to seeing him grow and progress.

Wallis named as new Porsche Carrera Cup GB Junior (Autosport)

Former Arrow McLaren team manager Billy Vincent is developing a new team-based educational program in partnership with the Lucas Oil School of Racing that will be based in Indianapolis and cater to those who lack hands-on racing experience.

“I’m working on an academy with the Lucas Oil School to use their cars and recreate what the Jim Russell Racing School did, where you’d go and train at their shop, go to the track and run the cars, and really get that understanding of how to assemble and take care of race cars,” Vincent told RACER. “Because for my generation, that’s used where all the engineers and mechanics came out of.”

“There are lots of schools where people can go these days if they want to become a driver, and there’s some really good university programs that have motorsports engineering degrees you can get, but you get them in the shop or take them to a test day, and they’re just as green as grass. And that just means you really aren’t ready for the job,” Vincent explained.

Vincent teams with Lucas Oil School of Racing to create academy program for race crew (Racer)

NASCAR President Steve Phelps says the sanctioning body will continue its diversity efforts that have been in place for about two decades despite a complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by the conservative group America First Legal.

I’m proud of the work that we’ve done in the areas of diversity inclusion to broaden our sport,” Phelps says. “We are going to continue efforts to have the entire country, the entire world, come to our facilities, watch it on television because it’s about a love for racing. I think … racing is a great opportunity for people to come together.”

Mark Boudreau
Author: Mark Boudreau

Mark is the publisher of Motorsport Prospects. As a former lawyer, he applies his legal background and research skills to assist race drivers by showcasing the resources they need to make their motorsport careers happen.