Young Welshman aiming for F1 glory

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VIRTUAL REALITY is where a young Welshman with a need for speed in his blood was noticed for his lightning reflexes and driving prowess, but it only seems a matter of time now before Jann Mardenborough is lining up alongside the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel to race for the F1 world championship.

It was two years ago that Mardenborough, from Ely in Cardiff, won a special competition that pitted hopefuls against each other on Playstation game Gran Turismo 5, and allowed him to go on to stake his claim to race for real.

The 22-year-old former Swansea Metropolitan University motorsport engineering student has never looked back and was yesterday unveiled as Red Bull’s newest racer in the GP3 racing season. Only a few steps now remain between that and the big time of F1.

Speaking about his unbelievable rise in the sport, Mardenborough, whose dad was a professional footballer for Cardiff City, said: “Last year I was driving in Formula 3, which is basically three steps below Formula 1 – it’s a feeder series.

“GP3 is a step up from that, you could say it’s two steps below Formula 1.

“The big difference is that the races are held on the same weekends and at the same venues as Formula 1 races in Europe, so the first round is being held in Barcelona in May during the Spanish Grand Prix weekend.

“It’s the perfect shop window for a young driver. Every single person you need to impress to be a Formula 1 driver will be at the racetrack so it’s going to be an exciting weekend and I can’t wait to get started.”

His rise in the world of motor racing is even more remarkable considering he had never got behind the wheel of a high-performance car before his competition winning appearance in 2011.

But after taking full advantage of his winning turn, Mardenborough was confirmed as the full-time driver for Nissan for their Blancpain Endurance Series in January 2012.

The young racer appears to be in the best possible hands as he dreams of making it at the highest level of the sport.

Mardenborough added: “The ultimate, beyond my wildest dreams, would be to race in Formula 1 and I’m at least in the right place to try and achieve that.

“I’ve been down to Red Bull’s headquarters in Milton Keynes and had a chance to use their simulator, which is a real boost because there’s tracks this year which I’ve never driven on.

“I haven’t bumped into Sebastian Vettel down there yet but I’m looking forward to getting some tips from him and other world-class drivers.

“I did bump into Christian Horner which was crazy because he knew who I was. That was pretty cool.

“Learning from these well-known names and using world-class facilities is going to be an amazing experience.”

On the topic of emulating other top drivers, the Welshman said: “Someone like Lewis Hamilton is one of my heroes and I’ve looked up to him since he was in GP2.

“When he moved up to Formula 1 he almost won it in his first year so he’s someone who I take inspiration from, though I wouldn’t say I’m trying to emulate him as I need to be my own person.”

If Mardenborough can hold his nerve in GP3 and show he has what it takes, then do not be surprised to see Wales gain a new hero in the lavish world of adrenaline-junkie F1 racing where speed is as essential as oxygen.

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