Southampton University Students to take part in Daytona 24 Hours

Engineering Sciences students from the University of Southampton have been given the opportunity of a lifetime to become crew members of a top-flight International GT team for the 2002 Rolex Daytona 24 Hour Race.

Brookspeed are veterans of the British GT Championship, ELMS and Petit Le Mans and also entrants of this year's Le Mans 24 Hours. They will be giving up to six students from the University's `Formula Student' racing programme a chance to crew their Le Mans wining Chrysler Viper GTS-R in the forthcoming 24-hour classic.

To date, two members of the current `Formula Student' project group have worked at Brookspeed, Ashley Cromack in 2000 and Simon Willis in 2001. Having been "very impressed" with the standard of engineering undergraduates from the University of Southampton, Martin Braybrook, owner of Brookspeed, proposed to give the next generation of motorsport engineers the chance to blood themselves at one of the most famous races on the sportscar calendar.

"I've always been incredibly impressed by the confidence and the abilities of the Southampton University undergraduates," says Martin. "For me,they are the future of motorsport engineering and this is a golden opportunity to find future talent."

Whilst in Daytona, the students would be able to obtain an invaluable insight into the workings of a motor racing team from both a technical and managerial viewpoint.

Simon Willis who, with Martin, helped arrange the project, says it will give the students an unprecedented opportunity to see what life is like in a top motorsport team at one of the most prestigious and demanding races in the season.

"It's a unique opportunity to see what happens when the real world meets academia," says Simon. "Teams test out young, up-and-coming drivers - why not do the same with crew? One of us could be the Kimi Raikkonnen of engineering!"

The Formula Student squad, who will design, build and race a single-seater in the eponymous championship this year, is supported by Jordan Grand Prix, who will be sure to keep a close eye on the team's efforts in Daytona. After all, Brookspeed, including its student charges, is going to Daytona with a proud history to live up to. Not only did their Viper, the former Oreca works car, win the GTS division of the Le Mans 24-Hours in 2000, but a sister car took overall honours in the Daytona event that year.

Driving the Viper will be Former Finnish Formula Ford Champion Kari Mäenpää. Kari competed in the German Formula 3 Championship in 2001. He is a winner of the Finnish Motor Sport Association's 'Newcomer of the Year Award' - winners of the same prize include top sports car racer (and ex-F1 star) J J Lehto and current F1 drivers Mika Häkkinen and Mika Salo. Mäenpää will be joined by Grahame Bryant, who will bring much needed experience of the Daytona 24 Hours, having completed this race on the past three runnings.