Chesterfield driver Ben Barnicoat is relishing life in the fast lane.
Just weeks after claiming the Formula Renault 2.0 Northern European Cup in his debut season, the 17-year-old’s achievement was recognised at the prestigious Autosport Awards.
He was presented with the British Club Driver of the Year accolade by McLaren Racing Director Eric Boullier at a glitzy ceremony boasting racing’s biggest names on Sunday night.
Newly crowned Formula 1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton, World Rally Champion Sébastien Ogier and BTCC Champion Colin Turkington were amongst the big winners at the event.
“It’s nice to be recognised,” said Barnicoat, who celebrates his 18th birthday on December 20. “I look up to Lewis Hamilton, he has come from a similar background to me - carting then cars. I hope to follow in his footsteps.
“F1 is my goal, I want to be a successful F1 driver. I want to be F1 champion. Mark Webber was a great driver and I wouldn’t mind that, that would be a success too.”
But with a long list of honours already to his name, including CIK-FIA European KF2 title and Super One MSA KF2 British Champion, Barnicoat has a taste for pole position. His love for racing began on a family holiday in Cornwall at the age of eight and since then he has progressed through different junior stages and made the switch to cars.
“That’s when I had the dream and steadily over time that dream has become more a realistic ambition,” he said. “I can’t believe it at times, how far I’ve come in such a short space of time.
“My family have been amazing. I wouldn’t be where I am without them. Sponsorships have helped too, they’ve allowed me to pursue my dream. Sometimes I have to pinch myself.
“2014 was my first season in cars and I had a lot to learn, but I benefitted from some great support and I’ve got so many good people behind me. It was a challenge, without question.
“I was up against experienced drivers who had a couple of years on me. I have had to learn quickly and put that in to my next race. I was consistent too and that took me all the way to the championship.”
Barnicoat resisted the temptation to jump in to F3 and will race in the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 next year. Testing has already begun in Spain.
“I could have gone in to F3 but we decided to go down a different route, if I win next year’s championship then the money from that will mean I can skip F3 and go straight in to F2,” he said.
“I want to do everything I can to win. I’m racing the same car again, I have a good relationship with my team and we’ll get stronger together. It’s been a great year and hopefully we can progress further in 2015.
“It’s a step up, the competition will be stronger. I’ll be going up against more experienced drivers and it’ll be a challenge but it’s one I’m looking forward to.”