Porsche, in North America and around the world, has long been a supporter of young driver talent. The German sports car manufacturer was among the first to recognize the benefit of nurturing up-and-coming drivers with useful skills for on the track and off. Once placed with privateer and factory race teams, these young pilots learned “on the job” from the best of the “works” pilots. They gained skills not only in driving and team interaction firsthand from the veterans but also had the opportunity to watch interactions with the media, marketing partner and fans. In time, Porsche formalized the technique by creating the Porsche Junior Programme where a more academic approach was taken. With the introduction of the Porsche Carrera Cup North America in 2021, Porsche has moved the bar forward with a dedicated program to support drivers 24-years-old and younger within the new one-make championship: the Porsche Junior Program North America.
Officially introduced to participants on February 22 by Porsche Motorsport North America (PMNA) president and CEO Dr. Daniel Armbruster, the North American adaptation of the longstanding Porsche Junior Programme provides assets to build racecraft as well as engineering, marketing and media skillsets. Other physical assets include a Stand21 Porsche Carrera Cup North America-branded firesuit. As the ultimate prize, one driver will be selected to represent the North American region at the annual Porsche Junior Shootout in Germany. While North American drivers have been given “wild card” slots in the past, 2021 will mark the first year a spot will be guaranteed. Once at the Shootout, the Porsche Carrera Cup North America representative will have the opportunity to challenge for a seat as an official Porsche Junior and a partially funded ride in the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup for 2022.
Seven drivers are currently entered to participate in the inaugural season of the Porsche Carrera Cup North America that meet the criteria to be considered part of the Porsche Junior Program North America.
This is not the first foray into supporting young talent for the legendary company on the continent. Because of the intense competition, multiple opportunities and brand savoy marketplace, North America has long been a key training ground for drivers Porsche has earmarked for factory driver roles. Additionally, to help cultivate driver talent in the United States and Canada, Porsche Cars North America (PCNA) and Porsche Motorsport North America (PMNA) combined to create the Porsche Young Driver Academy (PYDA) in 2012. Until COVID-19 forced its closure – and with the creation of the Porsche Junior Program North America eventual replacement – in 2019, 33 drivers had graduated from the PYDA. Of the drivers who attended the three-day course held once a year at the Porsche Driving Experience facility at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama, 26 went on to become race and championship winners in significant high-level championships including in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, SRO GT, Indy Lights and in NASCAR.
The basic concepts of the PYDA created by North American Factory Driver Patrick Long (Manhattan Beach, California) and racing legend Hurley Haywood (St. Augustine, Florida) along with the PCNA Public Relations team, television and film media experts as well as mental and physical fitness specialists are being carried over in a new six module concept for the Porsche Junior Program. Drivers will have up to two hours of “class room” time on six different dates covering topics to build their value as drivers in and out of the cockpit. These range from branding, learning the new Porsche 911 GT3 Cup race car and MICHELIN® Pilot® Sport Cup N3 racing slicks, how to improve their data analysis and setup skills, mental focus and physical nutrition, how to take greatest benefit of driver coaching as well as training in media and marketing skills.
Dr. Daniel Armbruster, President & CEO, Porsche Motorsport North America.
“Developing young talent has always been important to Porsche. In 2012, we started the Porsche Young Driver Academy to help aspiring factory drivers in North America. We have wonderful talent here but there are so many options, so many places to race, it is hard to focus on this as the goal. As the only American factory driver, Patrick Long recognized the need and a way to help give drivers a fair opportunity at the Junior Shootout. Together with PMNA and PCNA, he and Hurley Haywood created such a curriculum to do this.
COVID forced us to pause the Young Driver Academy but Carrera Cup North America has given us the chance to take what we learned there and make it even better through our new Porsche Junior Program North America. It is the best of PYDA mixed with the best of the Junior Programme in Germany in real world conditions. As an engineer, I see this as the perfect laboratory for these drivers to learn. We feel this, along with a full season in the new 911 GT3 Cup race car and on the same Michelin tires as the rest of the regions, will provide the driver selected to represent North America a much improved position from which to compete at the Shootout.”