For the fourth consecutive year, Porsche Motorsport North America (PMNA) and Porsche Cars North America (PCNA) brought together a new group of up-and-coming champions to learn and hone their skills on and off the race track at the Porsche Young Driver Academy. Held at the home of the Porsche Sport Driving School at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama, Jesse Lazare, Daniel Morad, Clark Toppe and Alec Udell participated in the expanded two-day, all-encompassing program.
The Young Driver Academy provides promising North American drivers with an opportunity to reap the numerous benefits of a program based on Porsche’s European Junior selection process. PMNA and PCNA emphasize evaluation and development of the young drivers during the Academy, with the goal of discovering and nurturing talent in the United States and Canada so they can reach their maximum potential.
“For the first time in the four years of the Young Driver Academy, we have two attendees from Canada,” said Owen Hayes, Director of Operations for Porsche Motorsport North America. “This illustrates the growth of our program and speaks to the young driving talent in all of North America.”
A look back at the 2014 class shows a successful 2015 season for each of the five participants: Elliott Skeer winning the IMSA 911 GT3 Cup by Yokohama Championship while Michael Lewis scored four GTA class wins in the first five races in the Pirelli World Challenge (PWC), helping Porsche win the 2015 GT Class Manufacture Championship.
In the PWC GT Cup class, Colin Thompson had a solid season winning the inaugural GT Cup presented by MOMO drivers' championship with an impressive 13 wins in 18 races while Sloan Urry finished in second. Meanwhile, Scott Hargrove won the majority of the Platinum Cup races in the 2015 IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada season.
The Academy Itself
The comprehensive Academy experience includes classroom exercises, on-camera media training and new for this year a physical evaluation with nutritional instruction from EXOS, the Human Performance Partner at the Porsche Experience Center at One Porsche Drive in Atlanta.
Ken Payne, Motorsports Technical Director for Michelin North America presented information on the intricacies of high performance tires ranging from construction to practical use on the road or on the race track. All four drivers experienced the challenging 17-turn, 2.38-mile circuit at Barber Motorsports Park in identically prepared IMSA specification Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars on Michelin racing tires.
Porsche racing legend and lead Porsche Sport Driving School instructor Hurley Haywood, Porsche factory driver Patrick Long and GT racing champion Andrew Davis heavily interacted throughout, while Bob Varsha and Jamie Howe of the Fox Sports broadcast team led the media training.
Owen Hayes, Director of Operations for Porsche Motorsports North America with other Porsche representatives and industry professionals also provided training and constructive critique.
2015 Participant Driver Profiles
- Age: 18 (May 25, 1997)
- Residence: Montreal, Quebec Canada
Experience: Began karting at age 8. Won three Canadian championships, including 2012 Rotax Senior Championship. Represented Canada twice at karting World Finals. Led Porsche 911 GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama Platinum Cup standings through the first nine rounds of 2015, with four wins, finishing second.
- Age: 25 (April 24, 1990)
- Residence: Thornhill, Ontario Canada
Experience: Began career in karting at age 8, winning Canadian Formula Senior Championship and Florida Winter Tour titles. Won 2010 World Championship in the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals karting event in La Conca, Italy. Made limited starts in Indy Lights and GP3 Championship in 2011. Finished second in the Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin Platinum Cup standings through eight rounds in 2015, with victory at Toronto for Alegra/Porsche Centre Oakville Motorsports.
- Age: 18 (September 9, 1997)
- Residence: The Woodlands, Texas
Experience: Competed in karting from 2009-11, winning Southwest Regional Cup championship in Rotax Junior class in 2011. Second in Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Powered by Mazda Lites 1 standings through 10 rounds in 2015, with two victories, as series rookie.
- Age: 19 (Nov. 29, 1995)
- Residence: The Woodlands, Texas
Experience: 2008 Rotax Minimax National Points Champion. 2010 Rock Island Gran Prix Double Winner. NASA Regional Points Championship for Spec Miata in 2011. Finished fourth in the Pirelli World Challenge (PWC) 2015 GT Cup Championship