Clio Ace Gelzinis Earns FIA Academy Place

by Simon Paice

Renault UK Clio Cup racer Ignas Gelzinis has claimed the single guaranteed European place in this year’s FIA Institute Young Driver Excellence Academy.

The 22 year old Lithuanian emerged victorious from a field of 25 talented competitors to secure the position after three days of intensive testing and evaluation in Austria.

On the final day, the top six drivers, which included British single-seater ace Jake Dennis, competed in an on-track shoot-out, judged by ex-Formula One racer Alex Wurz and 2001 World Rally Champion co-driver Robert Reid.

“It’s incredible,” said Gelzinis, who currently lies sixteenth in the Clio Cup standings. “I still can’t believe it. I didn’t do so well on the first day in the fitness and after that I thought: ‘OK, you are in the top 25 drivers in Europe, this is good, now just try to enjoy it.

“I tried to relax and stay away from the limit in the driving and now I have been chosen. This means so much to my career – the chance to work with people like Alex and Robert and all the others is amazing.”

Dennis and the other unsuccessful drivers now have the chance to secure one of the three wildcard slots for the global programme, with the European event being one of five qualifying events around the world. WRC star Andreas Mikkelsen and F1 test drivers Alexander Rossi and Robin Frijns are previous graduates of the programme.

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