MANOR PRODUCES THIRD McLAREN AUTOSPORT WINNER IN AS MANY YEARS
Hugely successful Formula Renault UK team Manor Competition added to its enviable reputation for producing the country's most talented junior racing drivers on Sunday night, 5th December, when Lewis Williamson was crowned the 22nd McLaren Autosport BRDC Award winner.
The 21-year-old Scotsman, from Golspie in Sutherland, became the Nottinghamshire squad's third driver in as many years to scoop the coveted accolade after seriously impressing the award judges with his performances at the wheel of Formula 2 and Mercedes DTM machinery at Silverstone.
Williamson developed superbly during the 2010 Formula Renault UK campaign and came very close to winning the title in only his second season of car racing. Taking five wins -- the most of any driver this year -- along with four other podiums, five pole positions and four fastest race laps, he ended the season a mere six points shy of the championship title.
To cap off the year with the McLaren Autosport BRDC Award -- coupled with a superb prize package including 0x00a3100,000, full membership of the British Racing Drivers' Club and a McLaren Formula One test -- is a dream come true for Williamson as he now eyes graduation to F1 support series GP3 in 2011.
"When they announced my name last night I could hardly get up from my chair as the table went about five feet in the air and I nearly ended up with a black eye as everybody started hugging me!", he said, "When we got to the venue I didn't get my hopes up and I wasn't feeling nervous -- we had nothing to lose. To win the award is amazing. It's all very emotional and difficult to put into words."
Aside from the award itself, perhaps the greatest moment for Williamson was to receive his prize from fellow Scots David Coulthard and Paul di Resta -- both past McLaren Autosport BRDC Award winners, di Resta being the first Manor driver to win the accolade back in 2004.
"To be given the opportunity to even sit in the same room as some of the great names in attendance last night was something else but to receive the award from David and Paul, two hugely talented and successful Scots, was unbelievable", added Williamson, "For them to acknowledge what I'm doing is a huge moment in my life.
"So many people have asked me, 'what is it about Manor -- how do they produce so many winners of the McLaren Autosport award' and the answer is simple. Tony and Sarah (Shaw) and the whole team don't just teach you how to drive, they teach you how to approach the racing too.
"The whole package they offer makes you better on track and a better person off track. To have had three Manor drivers win the award for the last three years and to look at all of the success the team has had over the years speaks for itself -- all credit to them."
Underlining Manor's faultless driver development work, which has been proven time and again to equip its racers with the skills necessary to succeed at the highest level, Williamson's achievement sees him follow hot on the heels of 2008 winner Alexander Sims and 2009 recipient Dean Smith to become the team's fifth McLaren Autosport victor from the past seven years.
Team co-owner Sarah Shaw said: "We're really happy for Lewis, he absolutely deserves this. We've seen him evolve over the course of the year from a driver who was blindingly quick, but prone to making the odd error, to one able to channel his aggression into absolute determination to succeed and the calmness to soak up immense pressure. He has all of the attributes to go all the way.
"From a team perspective, it's no coincidence so many of our drivers have won the McLaren Autosport BRDC Award and it confirms to us our methods are effective in preparing drivers and enabling them to go on to achieve at the highest level."
Glittering history sets Manor apart in Formula Renault... So many McLaren Autosport BRDC Award winners from the Manor ranks have gone on to huge success. Di Resta finished third in the Formula Renault UK standings in 2004 and then went on to win the 2006 Formula 3 Euroseries title and, this year, the DTM Championship. He is also the reserve driver for F1 team Force India and is fully expected to graduate to an F1 race drive in 2011.
Fellow DTM driver Oliver Jarvis won the Formula Renault UK crown for Manor in 2005 before being awarded the McLaren Autosport accolade and after winning the Macau F3 Grand Prix in 2007 he went on establish himself as a front-runner in DTM.
Alexander Sims concluded the 2008 Formula Renault UK title chase as Vice-Champion, only losing out on the crown through the category's double 'drop-score' ruling, and after being awarded the McLaren Autosport accolade he graduated to the F3 Euroseries.
Last year, Dean Smith claimed the McLaren Autosport award after a sensational season in which he won the Formula Renault UK title for Manor even though missing the opening two rounds. Stepping up to GP3 Series last year, Smith ended his rookie campaign in the F1 support class as the top Briton.
Away from the roll call of McLaren Autosport award winners of course, 2008 FIA Formula One World Champion Lewis Hamilton cut his teeth in Formula Renault UK with Manor -- winning the 2003 title with the team -- while 2007 F1 Champion Kimi Raikkonen took the 2000 Formula Renault crown.