Charlotte, North Carolina --- In the buildup to the United States V-Prix, FIRST Motorsport have announced the drivers that will be included in their youth academy program beginning in 2016.
"I am pleased to confirm that FIRST have signed two talented youngsters to develop from 2016 onwards. We have signed Ukrainian Oleksandr Zozulya and Mexican Felix Pérez to be the first members of our youth academy. Oleksandr has raced for FIRST previously in the FV2 WInter Series, where he impressed us by taking victory in the team's debut race in any championship. Felix has impressed us and many other Formula Virtual teams by dominating the inaugural VARS season and at least three other teams showed interest in him. We look forward to working with both of them 2016 and wish them the best of luck for the rest of their 2015 campaigns." - Adam Blocker, FIRST Team Principal and Co-Founder.
Zozulya currently sits 9th in the Virtual World Racing Series championship, where he is racing for Holmqvist. As Blocker mentioned, he previously raced for FIRST in the FV2 Winter Series where he finished 5th in the championship. Zozulya has also previously raced in the FV3 Series for Smith Motorsport. While Zozulya has not been a stand out driver at any level, he has won in every series he has competed in and has placed near the top of the championship in every season he has completed. The 18 year old Ukrainian is still young and has more experience in the junior formulae than most at his age.
Pérez, on the other hand, is very much an unknown quantity. He has only competed in 10 professional races (compared to Zozulya's 44), and all of these have been in the newly formed Virtual Americas Racing Series. Pérez has impressed in these 10 races, however, as he as won 5 of the 10 races, finished on the podium 8 of 10 races, and scored 6 consecutive pole positions. He currently has almost double the amount of points as his nearest competitor in the series. Pérez, like Zozulya, is 18 years old, so he has many years to mature into a world class virtual racing driver.
According to sources from the FV2 paddock, Blocker and FIRST want to place both drivers in the same FV2 team to compare the two and ensure that they have an equal opportunity to impress. A direct match-up between the two would be interesting, as Pérez arguably has been more impressive than Zozulya but he has a lot less racing experience than the Ukrainian despite being the same age. With the interest shown in Pérez by other Formula Virtual teams being so high, it would seem likely that FV2 teams will be interested in having the Mexican as a driver next season.
20 drivers have been ranked so far, ranging from those who have been permanently anonymous or just downright poor, to those who have had impressive seasons, but not quite done enough with the machinery available to them. Without wanting to make this sound like some sort of talent competition, we're now down to the final three - Karl Beckenbauer, Enzo Domenicalli and Marcus Thunder - so it's now time to see which driver has topped the FV mid-season rankings.
The Anglo-French DS Automobiles Team Mathershaw team have announced their signing of Kip Maxwell on loan from Downton for 2016 after the Brit resigned with the Amesbury based squad for next season. The deal is the latest in a string of cooperation between DS and Downton, with this deal representing another link in the partnership.
Team Principal Arthur Lapierre made the announcement at the Paul Ricard factory rather than the US V-Prix paddock due to the fact that Lapierre will not be present in Indianapolis to concentrate on development of the 2016 car.
'We are delighted to announce that we've agreed with Downton to have Kip on board for 2016. He's been an integral part of the Downton development since day one, and since 2014 he's been a big part of what we're doing here. He will be leading our testing and development programmes, something particularly important with Olen coming in next year, as we need to have the experience of Kip to give us the impetus to push forward. Of course, he's also in the race car at the moment, and from the two races he has done, it's clear he is a capable replacement should one of our regular drivers be unable to compete. As such, Kip will be official Test and Reserve Driver for DS Automobiles Team Mathershaw.'
'Of course, Kip, Adrien and the rest of the team are over in the USA, but we've taken the decision for me and Robert to come back early to push ahead with our plans for 2016. We are in constant contact however with the team in the US, as we're looking to speed up the transfer of knowledge from the track to the factory so we can optimise our design for next year. It's going to be interesting to see how well this works, but we feel we're in a position to try a different way of working.'
Back in the US V-Prix paddock, Bradley Downton, Team Principal of Downton FV Team said of the Kip Maxwell deal: 'As a team we are absolutely delighted that Kipper has been able to find a seat for next season, and even more so that he stays within the Downton-DS family. On a personal level I'll be sad to see him go, he's been with us since the start and has been a wonderful and loyal reserve driver, but unfortunately we just don't have room for him in the team line-up next season. Having said that however, it is just a season loan, and he will still be helping us with some behind the scenes work on the engine especially, and as usual, I’m sure he’ll be ready – and DS will be happy – for him to jump into one of our cars should the situation arise.'
Part one ranked drivers 23rd to 11th, but now we're getting to the important end. Part two of the rankings covers 10th to 4th.
The 2015 Formula Virtual season has been an intriguing season so far, with new winners, crazy pit strategies, lots of unreliability, new venues, and completely different formula. So far Franklin and Wagner are on top, but Rossi and Liverpool are close behind. Here are ten potentially interesting statistics that tell the story of the season so far (in no particular order) with a brief analysis of each one.
Below are a selection of post race comments from a variety of teams and drivers regarding their Canadian V-Prix.
In the first two seasons, the top ten drivers were ranked by team principals and revealed to the public, but now Formula Virtual is going one step further, with a complete list of driver rankings (for those who have competed in five or more races) at the mid-point in the season.
The season has been a difficult one to rank drivers in thus far, with many producing stand-out performances, but some in good cars, and some in cars not quite as quick, while others have been off the boil. How do you rank a driver who's been impressively unbeatable in some races - producing some of the biggest winning margins FV has ever seen - and miserably poor in others, against a team mate who's consistently scored points, but rarely produced a stand out performance? Or a young driver who's only real shot at points this season was thwarted by a retirement, which has also blighted much of his campaign so far.
Well, the data has been compiled and compared, and used to construct these rankings, though at the same time this is largely down to my own opinions. Whether you agree or disagree, put your thoughts on the forum, and look out for part 2 (10-4) and part 3 (3-1) coming Thursday and Friday respectively!