Motorsport UK Academy 2023 mid-season report: success shared nationally and abroad

Monday 07 August 2023

Halfway through another season of racing, the Motorsport UK Academy athletes are shining on the world stage.

The 2023 Team UK, Team UK Futures & Futures Co-Drivers, and Enhanced DiSE cohort are showing exceptional promise both on and off the track, with success in the UK and overseas. All the while, the Academy’s busy programme of training sessions has continued to provide the talented group with the opportunity to learn, develop, thrive and ultimately unlock their full potential.

Abbi Pulling (Futures) is the leading Academy representative in the new-for-2023 F1 Academy championship. She’s fifth in the standings with six podiums and a highest finish of second to her name, with just the Austin season finale in October to go.

DiSE duo Jessica Edgar and Chloe Grant – an FIA Girls on Track UK Ambassador – also race in the series and have impressed; Edgar having netted three podiums and Grant with a best finish of seventh.

On the national single-seater scene, Callum Voisin (Futures) is proving that consistency is key as he leads the ultra-competitive GB3 Championship for Rodin Carlin but is yet to take a race win. In the same series, fellow Futures stars McKenzy Cresswell and Matthew Rees have both been victorious and are currently fifth and sixth in the standings respectively.

Stateside, Louis Foster (Team UK) took his maiden Indy NXT triumph with powerhouse Andretti Autosport at Mid-Ohio in early July, and currently sits fourth in points in the IndyCar support category.

The Academy’s presence in international sportscar racing is as strong as ever. Harry King continues to impress in one-make Porsche racing as he contests his second full season of the Formula 1-supporting Supercup championship with BWT Lechner Racing. He’s currently second in points after two dominant victories in Monaco and Hungary.

Talented Lamborghini GT3 driver Sandy Mitchell is second in the British GT Championship teams’ standings in the Barwell Motorsport-run car he shares with Shaun Balfe, the duo having scored one victory at Snetterton. Mitchell is also contesting GT World Challenge Europe with K-Pax Racing.

Daryl DeLeon Taylor (DiSE) has returned to the Radical Cup UK championship he won last year, and currently sits third in points as he dovetails it with a British Endurance Championship campaign in a Porsche GT3 with Team HARD. He made his British Touring Car Championship debut with the same team last weekend at Croft and showed strong pace throughout.

A regular on the BTCC support bill is the MINI Challenge Trophy, and Futures driver Tom Ovenden currently leads the highly-competitive one-make series, having taken another race victory last weekend in North Yorkshire.

The top class of MINI Challenge, the JCW category, features DiSE star Will Orton. Running in the Rookie class hasn’t held him back from being in the overall mix – impressively taking three wins on the way to his current second-place position in the standings. In the same series, last year’s dominant MINI Challenge Trophy champion Nelson King (Futures) is currently fourth in his first season in the championship.

The similarly competitive AIRTEC Motorsport Fiesta ST240 Championship is being led by Albert Webster (DiSE), while Jack Meakin – also on the DiSE programme – has won three of the six races so far in Britcar Trophy’s Renault Clio class in the car he shares with Rhys Lloyd.

In the rallying world, Jon Armstrong gave Team UK its first championship in 2023 with a dominant FIA European Rally Championship ERC3 class title. Driving an M-Sport Poland Ford Fiesta Rally3 Evo with co-driver Cameron Fair – a former Academy member himself – the duo took the accolade in Italy at the end of July, winning the rally by nearly four minutes. It was their fifth win from six rounds, with just two events remaining this year.

2022 BTRDA Rally champion Elliot Payne has four national rally victories under his belt this year, most recently at the Nicky Grist Stages, in his Ford Fiesta Rally2.

Meanwhile, Herefordshire co-driver Keaton Williams is back Stateside for another season of American Rally Association action, sitting alongside Brandon Semenuck. They’re currently leading the championship, looking for a repeat of their title success from 2022.

The Motorsport UK 5 Nations British Rallycross Championship is a Patrick O’Donovan benefit once again, as the reigning champion has dominated this year’s season so far – despite missing one round to compete in the European championship’s Sweden round, which he also won.

Karting continues to feature heavily in the Academy. Recently announced Motorsport UK Academy 2023 Young Driver of the Year Marcus Littlewood is a frontrunner in the Wera Tools British Kart Championships Senior X30 division – running fourth in points, just ahead of Sam Shaw. Both are on the Academy’s DiSE programme.

Off track, another healthy mix of training and enrichment sessions have been conducted across the UK. In April, Team UK undertook mental agility training with CoFiGi Performance, using simulators and brain activity monitors to support cognitive function efficiency, and trained on the new driving range at Bicester Hotel Golf & Spa, concentrating on distraction control, focus and grip strength.

In March, our talented squad of Academy co-drivers headed to Cumbria to visit rallying giant M-Sport, where they were given an insight into how a top World Rally Championship team operates and also pitched themselves for on-event work experience opportunities with the team at WRC rounds.

Attending Croatia, Sardinia and last weekend’s Rally Finland has already given some of the co-drivers valuable hands-on experience at world championship level, working hard with the Cumbria-based operation as part of their weather crew.

The co-drivers also had a pacenote/recce session in Abergavenny back in April, before media training with Louise Goodman and fitness testing with Porsche Human Performance in June.

The Futures cohort have benefitted from various training sessions, teaching them all about sport psychology and mental skills, career planning, engineering, nutrition, fitness, media training and more.

Meanwhile, those on the Enhanced DiSE programme have enjoyed simulator coaching and fitness training at iZone Driver Performance, a team building day at Bicester Hotel Golf & Spa and practical sessions at karting venue Daytona Tamworth.