Formula Ford Festival winner Josh Smith will switch to sportscar racing for 2019, having earned a place on the McLaren Automotive Driver Development Programme.
The 19-year-old makes the move after two and a half seasons in FF1600, in which he became BRSCC Northern champion in 2017 and a National series race-winner before his dramatic last-lap Festival triumph for Oldfield Motorsport in October this year.
“Becoming part of the McLaren programme is a lifetime dream becoming a reality,” said Smith.
“It fills me with an overwhelming amount of pride to be a part of such a historic and prestigious brand.
“My hopes for the year ahead are to show McLaren my full potential and skillset.
“However, I also hope to improve, develop and become a more defined driver.”
Smith joins existing McLaren GT protege Lewis Proctor, Clio Cup star James Dorlin and Mini Challenge frontrunner Jordan Collard on the programme for 2019.
The quartet will race a GT4 car for McLaren in a yet-to-be-announced series.
They earned their places on the scheme via an assessment process that included interviews, fitness trials and a comprehensive programme in a McLaren 570S GT4.
“I’m just absolutely delighted for him,” said Oldfield Motorsport’s James Oldfield.
“He’s a talent that everyone could clearly see he had in Formula Ford and it’s one that doesn’t come along that often. He’s a natural talent; properly quick in a car. His feedback is incredible, his racecraft is amongst the best I’ve ever seen in any of the drivers that have raced with me over the years.”
Oldfield knew also that this was in the pipeline.
“Josh had to miss two days of the Festival testing to go and do a driver evaluation test day with McLaren to assess him,” he added, “for Josh’s career, for his advancement, I couldn’t hesitate – I encouraged and supported him to ensure that he pushed this opportunity. He’d been waiting for this day for a long time I can tell you.
“Good drivers adapt very quickly to their new environment and I’m sure that’ll be the case with Josh with this McLaren.”
Additional reporting by Graham Keilloh