A student from the University of Bath has been named the winner of the prestigious 2015 McLaren Autosport award at the climax of this year’s Autosport Awards in London.
The McLaren Autosport British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) award recognises young British racing talent with the aim of boosting their future racing prospects.
The award was inaugurated in 1989 and the list of the 26 previous winners is impressive, including British Formula 1 drivers David Coulthard and Jenson Button.
Mechanical Engineering student Will Palmer wrapped up the 2015 BRDC Formula 4 championship with a record points haul, winning 12 of the 24 races, and was selected by a panel of experts as the winner of the prize package which includes a test drive in a McLaren Formula 1 car, a £100,000 cheque, a full year’s BRDC membership and an Arai GP-6 RC carbon crash helmet.
Will saw off competition from five other finalists who were put through their paces at Silverstone with a number of driving, simulation and fitness tests.
The six finalists were tested in Formula 2 single-seaters, DTM Mercedes and McLaren 650S GT3 machines and following their track tests, were interviewed by a judging panel comprising
Will’s racing ability is in his blood. He is the son of ex-Formula 1 driver, MSV owner and BRDC F4 founder Jonathan and brother of GP2 champion and Lotus F1 reserve driver Jolyon.
Commenting on winning, Will said: “It’s absolutely unbelievable. Every year I’ve seen the six finalists on stage and dreaming of one day taking part, it’s an amazing opportunity.
“Now that I’m here as the winner, it’s absolutely unbelievable. It’s absolutely massive for my career. I’d like to thank all my family, especially my dad, and HHC Motorsport. They’ve guided me for the past four years.”
Another of the University’s Mechanical Engineering students was also at the awards ceremony. Andrew Lightbody, who is in his final year of study was a shortlisted finalist for the 2015 Autosport Williams Engineer of the Future Award.
This is a new award that recognises an engineering student from a UK university as a rising star of Formula One engineering and supports them with an accelerated career development programme at Williams.
Andrew said: “It felt a privilege to be nominated alongside other candidates from top UK engineering universities. It was also a big surprise to be nominated given the high calibre of the students that I was competing against from the University of Bath and even from my Formula Student team, Team Bath Racing. Come see us compete at Silverstone in July 2016!
“In future I would like to become part of a winning motor sport team or working in a company that is at the cutting edge of technology and hopefully this nomination will open many more doors into exciting areas of engineering.”
Both Will and Andrew’s success, as a winner and finalist respectively, is a reflection of the calibre of students studying mechanical engineering at the University of Bath.
Andrew is also part of the University’s Formula Student racing team, Team Bath Racing which produced its highest achieving season to date having been confirmed as the UK’s top team and ranked 15th in the world out of more than 500 teams.
The Formula Student project is integrated into the third academic year of study for Bath engineering students in which they are challenged to design, build and race a single-seat racing car in one year.
Academic lead of Team Bath Racing and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Dr Kevin Robinson added: “We have a strong history of success in motorsports here at Bath, and when people ask me why I tell them it’s because we have some outstanding students – here is the proof.”
89 per cent of the research carried out by the University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering was ranked ‘internationally excellent’ (3*) and ‘world-leading’ (4*) by the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF), an independent assessment of UK university research activity.