Oliver Rowland is to step up to the World Series by Renault Formula Renault 3.5 championship with Fortec in 2014, the Racing Steps Foundation has confirmed today (Friday).

Rowland, who is fully-funded and managed by the foundation, clinched the seat following an impressive performance at the three-day FR3.5 test at Aragon last month.

The 2013 Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 runner-up finished in the top three in three out of the six sessions at the test.

Fellow RSF protégé Ben Barnicoat is also moving on, the foundation has announced.

Oliver Rowland
Oliver Rowland

Photo by: GP3 Media Service

The multiple kart champion - who made the transition to cars with a dominant display in the BARC Formula Renault 2.0 Autumn Cup at Rockingham in mid-November - is to graduate to the Formula Renault 2.0 NEC series with Fortec.

He will also compete in non-clashing Formula Renault 2.0 ALPS rounds.

The Chesterfield teenager, who won two out of the three races to claim the Autumn Cup, will follow in the tracks of fellow RSF-backed drivers James Calado and Oliver Rowland who both cut their single-seater teeth in Formula Renault 2.0.

A 2014 drive in the FIA Formula 3 European Championship for fellow RSF driver Jake Dennis, who finished fourth in this year's Eurocup FR2.0 series, is still under negotiation.

Meanwhile a deal to secure a 2014 drive in the US Indy Lights championship for foundation-backed Jack Harvey is close to completion. The 2013 GP3 driver will take part in next week's Road to Indy test at the Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama with multiple title winners Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

Sahara Force India F1 reserve driver James Calado, who finished third in the GP2 Series this year racing with ART Grand Prix, has now graduated from the RSF.

Making the announcements today, RSF founder Graham Sharp said: "Rowland, with Manor MP, and Barnicoat, driving for the ART Grand Prix works kart team, have demonstrated they have the talent and the determination to move up to the next step in their careers."

"Both have driven really well and consistently over the course of the 2013 season and are thoroughly deserving of the chance to show what they can do at the next level. We have high hopes for both of them."

Rowland, a former McLaren Autosport BRDC Award winner, said: "Formula Renault 3.5 with a top team like Fortec is a fantastic opportunity for me. I can't thank the Foundation enough for the continued backing they are providing me with.

"I think my style of driving is well-suited to the car and together with Fortec I know we have what it takes to challenge for wins and the title.

"Clearly it's not going to be easy but they won the title in 2012 with Robin Frijns in his rookie year and were runners-up this year with Stoffel Vandoorne, who was also a rookie, which shows it's perfectly possible."

Barnicoat, after his successful debut at Rockingham, shares similar ambitions. "I'll be approaching the NEC in exactly the same way as I've started every season and series I've raced in - with the intention of fighting for the title.

"Jake Dennis won it in his first year with Fortec, as did Matt Parry this year so I'll certainly be trying my hardest to do the same in 2014 which would make it three in a row for the team."

Racing Steps Foundation