Star Racing Academy (SRA), China’s first junior single-seater development programme, has announced a new partnership with Rotax Max Challenge China to provide talented karters with an opportunity to move up to single-seater competition via the unique and proven SRA platform. The China-wide partnership gives aspiring drivers a chance to begin their motor racing careers with the support of Volkswagen Group China, and is part of the Academy’s overall strategy to develop the next generation of Chinese motorsport heroes.
This weekend marks the first of the regional semi-finals, hosted at the Shanghai International Circuit’s KartWorld, with 30 karters taking part in the two days of competition. In total, more than 7,200 karters representing more than 24 karting clubs are expected to take part in the Star Racing Academy Rotax Max Challenge China. Yesterday, the 30 karters trained and received an introduction to SRA, before the top 20 karters from Saturday’s practice sessions were selected for today’s shootout with 15-year old Xu Kuai winning the semi-final.
Four, month-long regional competitions in East, North, South and Central China will narrow the field to 30 karters in each semi-final. From the regional semi-final, selected karters will move onto October’s grand final with the ultimate winner earning the opportunity to take part in the SRA 2016 shoot-out, during the Sports Car Champions Festival. With SRA aimed at drivers aged 15 to 20, should the winning karter be under age, SRA will support the winner with a year-long Rotax Max Challenge China race package. While the Eastern Region hosted its semi-final this weekend, the South competition has already begun, with the Northern Region beginning theirs July 1 and the Western competition set to begin on August 10.
Long considered the traditional first step in any youngster’s motorsport career, karting plays a pivotal role in the development of fledgling talent. Many of the world’s best drivers grew up racing karts. The first seeds of talent are often spotted in karting, and SRA is perfectly primed to help youngsters realise their full potential equipped with the benefit of decades of Volkswagen Group motorsport success and experience.
This season’s SRA drivers are amongst the youngest in the programme’s three-year history and both first-year drivers, 17-year olds Jeffrey Ye Junhui and Sean Zheng Shangguang, graduated to single-seaters this season following extensive karting careers. Impressing SRA coaches and trainers at last year’s intensive shoot-out, Ye and Zheng relied on their karting backgrounds as they adjusted to the FMCS Tatuus FA010 for the first time, and now the pair both race with Formula Masters China Series, China and the region’s leading junior single-seater championship. Academy trainee Jacky Liu Zhuangling, who at just 15 is the youngest driver ever selected to SRA, is also reaping the benefits of a strong karting foundation. While Liu impressed in last year’s shoot-out, it was decided that he would continue karting for the 2015 season, while also taking part in selected SRA training activities, and with the view to making his FMCS debut in 2016.
The new partnership aims to help SRA identify young talents whose potential can be fully realised through the multi-year Academy. The Academy takes a holistic approach to training, focusing on coaching and education both at the track and in between race weekends to help young Chinese drivers develop a motorsport foundation that will remain with them long after they graduate. Each season, the Academy enrols a few selected drivers who also race in FMCS. In partnering with the Rotax Max Challenge China, SRA is looking to its future to help ensure that the brightest talents have a shot at becoming China’s next motorsport hero.
“We are delighted to announce the partnership between Star Racing Academy and Rotax Max Challenge China,” said Dominic Lyncker, Head of Group Sports Car, Motorsport and Car Culture, Volkswagen Group (China). “Our goal at Star Racing Academy is to nurture and develop the next generation of Chinese motorsport heroes and, in order for the Academy to be sustainable and to fulfil its mission, we are constantly on the lookout for the top talents. Our partnership with Rotax Max Challenge China provides us with another avenue for talent spotting, while raising awareness about the Academy at the grassroots level.”