Developing tomorrow's championsUpdated: 2013-11-18 07:41
To promote sports car culture in China, Volkswagen Group China and Top Speed Ltd began the Formula Masters China Series this year, a new junior program designed to foster the next generation of Chinese and Asian motorsport stars.
"It is the ideal training program for fledging talent aged 15 and up to gain a comprehensive foundation," said Markus Nels, director of sports car projects at Volkswagen Group China.
He said the series of races in single-seat cars is an affordable way to nurture up-and-coming drivers that ensures skill - not financial advantages - brings the best talent to the racetrack.
"A natural progression from karting, it is the essential first step for drivers looking to establish a motorsport career," said Nels.
Races are held at the region's most prestigious tracks including the Formula 1 circuits in Shanghai and Malaysia.
A variety of racetracks further the training, requiring drivers to adapt and apply their skills in new situations.
"The FMCS is an ideal source for identifying young talent for existing Volkswagen motorsport events. In its first season, the strategy already resulted in notable success, with FMCS drivers competing in the Scirocco R Cup China and the Lamborghini Super Trofeo Asia Series, as well as other events such as the Asian Le Mans Series, Australian Formula 3 and the GT Asia Series," said Nels.
In addition to offering racing opportunities for young drivers to develop, VW also launched the Star Racing Academy this year, the only institution of its kind in China for developing future motorsport stars aged between 16 and 26 in a three-year program.
Nels said the education and coaching program prepares SRA drivers to compete in entry-level FMCS events as well as more advanced series. Supported by a team of professional coaches, the first class of SRA drivers - Bao Jinlong, Yuan Bo, Zou Chenyu and Zou Sirui - spent the season learning the fundamentals of racing while adapting to new and challenging situations.
"We saw achievements in the first year as our four Star Racing Team drivers each improved their pace and form over the course of 18 races in the debut of the FMCS," said Nels.
The championship triple-header, part of the Sports Car Champions Festival in Shanghai, saw Yuan Bo finish second in the 2013 FMCS Chinese Drivers Classification.
Another SRA driver, Bao Jinlong, was crowned the 2013 Scirocco R Cup China champion, becoming the first Chinese driver to win the title since the series was established five years ago.
Bao credits his improved skill, strategy and tactics to the intense single-seater training he received in the SRA.
Yuan and Bao, the top two finishing SRA drivers this season, were rewarded with an opportunity to compete in Formula Masters China Series Macao Invitational, which is part of the 60th Macao Grand Prix.
"The first opportunity to compete on the world's famous Guia Circuit provides a final challenge this season for them and an opportunity to put together all that they've learned throughout the year on one of the biggest stages in motorsport," said Nels.
SRA technical director Massimo Lombardi said he is satisfied with the growth of the drivers over the course of the season.
"Everyone at SRA has worked incredibly hard this season and I think the drivers have a better understanding about what it takes to be a top motorsport professional."