After three days of rigorous testing and evaluation, Lithuania’s Ignas Gelzinis has won a place on the FIA Institute Young Driver Excellence Academy in Austria.
He emerged victorious from a 25-strong field of candidates for the single guaranteed European spot.
On the final day, the group was whittled down to the top six, who competed in a shoot-out on track. They were Kevin Demaerschalk (22, Belgium), Jake Dennis (18, UK), Michelle Gatting (19, Denmark), Ignas Gelzinis (22, Lithuania), Erik Johansson (16, Sweden) and Denis Olsen (17, Norway).
Gelzinis was delighted to be announced the winner from this strong group. “I can’t believe it,” he said. “It was amazing just to think I am one of the 25 top young drivers in Europe but now to win this is incredible. I have to thank everybody at the FIA Institute for this opportunity.”
Coming from a solid karting background and winning the 2009 and 2010 Lithuanian championships, Gelzinis now competes in the British Renault Clio Cup. He will soon join an impressive list of Academy alumni that includes Formula One test drivers Robin Frijns and Alex Rossi and World Rally Championship drivers Andreas Mikkelsen and Kevin Abbring.
All Academy drivers benefit from the expert tutelage of former Formula One race driver Alex Wurz and former World Rally Champion co-driver Robert Reid. The next Academy, which begins in November this year, provides a fully-funded training program that aims to help drivers develop their motor sport careers, whilst increasing safety skills and actively promoting the principles of safety, fairness and responsibility on and off the track.
But it is not over for the other finalists in terms of winning a place on the Academy. They still have a chance to secure one of three wildcard slots for the global program. This European event was the first of five qualifying events across the world and the wild card places will be determined at the end of this process.