Since 1997 Porsche has provided serious support, through the “Porsche Juniors” program, for young drivers in Europe looking to make a name for themselves in motorsport. Now, for the first time in North America, Porsche is extending a similar helping hand to young motorsport talent here in the US.
Last week, Porsche held a program evaluating four up-and-coming drivers at the Porsche Sport Driving School Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. This new program, known as the Porsche Motorsport North America Young Driver Academy, was designed using elements of Porsche’s European Junior selection program with specific details relevant for North America. The program focused on the 911 GT3 Cup car which has always been Porsche’s backbone GT racecar and is used in the Porsche one make championships worldwide. Of note is the fact that all current Porsche factory drivers began their Porsche careers in the Porsche one make cups before their promotion.
Sean Johnston (2012 IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge champion), Cooper MacNeil (2012 ALMS GT Challenge champion), Kyle Marcelli (2012 IMSA GT3 Cup Canada – most wins), and Spencer Pigot (2012 USF2000 series – most wins) were chosen to participate based on their exceptional 2012 racing seasons. Johnston, MacNeil and Marcelli all excelled in the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup. The fourth driver, Spencer Pigot, was chosen as an American open-wheel standout, recommended by International Motor Sports Association (IMSA), Porsche’s partner in the North American one make cups. All the drivers are under 25 years old.
“This was a great way for Porsche to find and evaluate young talent as well as to show appreciation for the drivers’ hard work, dedication and success in 2012,” said Jens Walther, president of Porsche Motorsport North America, Inc. “The two-day program, which included classroom testing and instruction, personality evaluation, media training and multiple driving activities, not only gave us a good insight into the potential for these drivers, but was designed to help make them more professional and provide personalized guidance for their up-and-coming sports car careers,” said Walther.
Unlike the old European “Porsche Juniors” program, this clinic had no winners or losers. In fact, Walther emphasized that, while the drivers were evaluated on all aspects of the program, the focus was on sharing the experience and giving professional advice.
Participating driving instructors from Porsche included America’s most decorated endurance champion Hurley Haywood, U.S.’ only Porsche factory driver Patrick Long, Brumos Racing and Rolex GRAND-AM GT champion Andrew Davis, plus Porsche Sport Diving School instructor Jeff Purner and driver-turned-broadcaster Justin Bell, who served as a media instructor for the group.
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