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.