Jake Hughes has today been revealed as one of the six finalists of the 2015 McLaren AUTOSPORT BRDC Award. After careful consideration from the expert judging panel, Jake Hughes, along with Jack Aitken, Ben Barnicoat, Ricky Collard, Will Palmer and Toby Sowery have been shortlisted for this year’s prestigious Award.
Competing in the Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup, the 21-year-old from Birmingham is currently sixth in the Championship. This is Jake’s second nomination for the Award, having also been nominated in 2013 after he won the BRDC F4 Championship. He said: “It’s an absolute pleasure to be nominated again. I’m a completely different driver to two years ago. I'd only had three years of karting experience and one year in BRDC F4, so turning up to the track and seeing the cars, just getting my head around, that was a challenge. I’m now mentally a lot stronger than I was and I’ll approach it much stronger, I didn’t believe in my talent as much as I do now. I know how it works and know what the judges expect of me so hopefully I can impress them.”
Currently sitting third in this year’s Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup, with three race wins so far, 20-year-old Londoner Jack Aitken is a Championship contender with one round to go. On his nomination, which is the second time he’s been up for the Award, he commented: “It's a great feeling to be nominated again. There are a lot of talented Brits around at the moment so you never know how these things go. I’m looking forward to driving three amazing cars. Last time I was shortlisted it was a bit different, I was one of the least experienced drivers – now I will be one of the most experienced, so the aim is to come out on top in as many aspects. It’s nerve-wracking if you’re one of the six finalists for the first time, so going back again for a second time will help for sure.”
Ben Barnicoat, also a second time nominee, is the second of this year’s crop competing in Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup. The 18-year-old from Chesterfield in Derbyshire is currently in fifth place in the Championship after scoring two race victories. Ben, who joined the McLaren Young Driver Programme in 2010, said: “It’s such a relief! I’ve got the biggest smile. I’ve had a tough season, not really through much fault of my own, I’ve had to dig in deep and it’s paid off in the last two races. Obviously last year was my first season in cars and there was quite a lot of pressure. I think this year I’m a lot more relaxed and I don’t have to worry about things, it just comes to me more naturally. That is one of the things I think will help with the Award. I’m so grateful to get another opportunity.”
With two rounds to go, 19-year-old Ricky Collard is second in the MSA Formula Championship. The Hampshire born driver comes from motorsport stock, with father Rob a multiple race winner in the British Touring Car Championship. Ricky said: “That’s massive news! Last year I went to the AUTOSPORT Awards for the first time but having grown up in motorsport my dad used to go all the time – he’d always bring home programmes and point out who had won the young driver award. He'd say; ‘you’ve got to make sure you make it in the six yourself one day’. So it’s a dream come true to be nominated. I’ve had quite a difficult time over the last few years; losing Racing Steps Foundation backing and having a massive accident in karting. But it feels like I’m back this year – I’ve got a great team behind me, I’m on form and I’ve got to make the most of this opportunity because I’m lucky enough to be one of the six.”
Will Palmer took the spoils in this year’s BRDC Formula 4 Championship after scoring 12 wins on his way to the title. His success in the 2015 BRDC Formula 4 season came after winning the BRDC F4 Winter Championship. On his first nomination for the Award, the 18-year-old from West Sussex said: “It’s really awesome news. The Award was one of the reasons that we decided to stay in BRDC Formula 4 for a second year and it paid off as I won the Championship. The DTM car is the one that I'm really looking forward to testing – it seems to be the one that is just mega to drive. I've got an F3 test coming up so hopefully that can help me out! I'll be working hard to do a good job and impress the judges during the three days of tests.”
Toby Sowery became the youngest ever Champion of the F3 Cup after winning ten of 14 races and, this year, was crowned the 2014/15 MRF Champion. The 19-year-old from Melbourn, Cambridgeshire said on his nomination: “Although I've had a great season, I really wasn't expecting this. To come in halfway through the season and do well in the last couple of rounds it was a bit of a close call. I just need a bit of support financially, and this could be the break for me that I need. Last year I had more of a stable season and this year has been more of a struggle, so the nomination for the award is a reward for the hard work I put in and an opportunity to show what I can do.”
The prestigious McLaren AUTOSPORT BRDC Award dates back to 1989 and was established to reward and recognise the best young racing talent from the UK. Members of the public are invited to nominate drivers before a shortlist of six finalists are decided upon by the award’s judging panel.
This year’s finalists will undertake three days of driving, simulator and fitness tests, as well as interviews with the judging panel. The finalists will take to the wheel of F2, DTM and GT3 cars as they look to impress the panel of judges which this year will consist of; BRDC President Derek Warwick, McLaren GT Managing Director Andrew Kirkaldy, two-time British Touring Car Champion Jason Plato, leading circuit commentator Ian Titchmarsh, McLaren representative Mark Williams, Autosport Features Editor Scott Mitchell and Motorsport News editor Kevin Turner.
The 2015 AUTOSPORT Awards will be held on Sunday 6 December at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London. The winner of the 2015 McLaren AUTOSPORT BRDC Award will be crowned at the ceremony and will receive £100,000, a McLaren F1 test drive, a full BRDC membership and an Arai GP-6 RC Carbon race helmet.
Former winners of the Award include; 2009 F1 World Champion Jenson Button, ex F1 drivers David Coulthard and Paul Di Resta, 2005 DTM Champion Gary Paffett and multiple IndyCar Champion Dario Franchitti.
Derek Warwick, Chairman of the judging panel commented; “I’m excited because we’ve got six very worthy contestants. We’ve got a really strong year in terms of three drivers who have been there before, and three new guys who I think will push them to the max.”
“I’m impressed every year with the commitment from our partners. It’s great we’ve got the F2 cars again, because everything is equal. McLaren have shown amazing loyalty over time with the Formula 1 test and the GT car. The same goes for Mercedes with the DTM. All six drivers go to Porsche for fitness tests, which we view as a fundamental part of every driver’s DNA. The simulator work with Base is important because they drive on the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit and familiarise themselves with the F2 car. They are also assessed on a blind circuit so we see how they react to something new. People often underestimate the amount of work that goes into finding who we think is the best emerging talent.
“The Formula 1 test is the pinnacle of the Award for me. It’s not the £100,000 prize money, it’s all about driving the grand prix car. When you’re here and watch the winner get into it for the first time, and watch the six current finalists looking on, it gives you a massive buzz. It makes it all worthwhile to see the excitement in their eyes, it’s something special.”