2016 will see the return of the famous Winfield Racing School. The project will see the school return to the Paul Ricard Circuit in order to set up a Winter Racing Series. The winner of which will receive a fully funded season in an FIA Formula 4 Championship. The idea of the winter series is to bridge the gap between karting and single-seaters.
The championship will have nine race on three configurations of the Paul Ricard Circuit over a three week period. Like any normal winter series, it will focus on a race weekend format, with a Practice, Qualifying and Races.
However; uniquely, the series will look at workshops on basic technical explanations, rules and regulations, insurance, physical and mental preparation, media training and road and racing conduct. This should make the Winfield Winter Selection more inclusive in their experience than a normal off-season championship; offering youngsters the full driver training experience to help in their motor racing career.
The series will be run by Fred Garcia. The managing director has worked for two years as to revive the project and is looking to replicate the success of its predecessor.
“As a Frenchman and a motorsport enthusiast, I have a very personal and emotional connection to Winfield,” he said, referencing the French successes to have come out of the series, including Alain Prost and Didier Pironi.
“It was such an iconic racing school throughout my childhood and when I got my driving licence I took part in the Winfield Scholarship programme myself, like so many other young hopefuls. Now, I want to give something back to the programme that helped me and so many others achieve what they have.”
“The Winfield Racing School name carries with it great prestige and a profound history in the world of motorsport; hopefully this modern interpretation will prove just as successful and continue its legacy.”
The legacy of the Winfield Racing School caries on from 1962, when Magny-Cours Designer, Jean Bernigaud wanted to do something about the lack of French Formula 1 World Champions. It was set up in 1963 and started off with 300 young drivers. It was re-branded as the Winfield Racing School a year later, financed and now run by Bill Knight.
The prize for the championship was a prepaid year in French Formula Three. Similar to how the current project will be run. The unit built the MW1 (Martini Winfield) car especially for the thriving school after 1966.
The series merged with the Elf Oil Company owned Series in the 1970’s. This Ensured the winner would now get a drive in the French Formula Renault Series. As the years moved on, other racing schools were formed, but Winfield remained as the most celebrated. It produced Formula 1 stars including Prost, Pironi, Damon Hill, Jean Alesi. As well as WTCC champion Yvan Muller.
The series finally shut at the turn of the millennium. Since then the French popularity in Formula 1 has fluctuated, as of 2015, there are no French born drivers with the most recent being Jean-Eric Vergne and Jules Bianchi. France also has the independent French F4 Series which Jean Alesi’s son, Giuliano Alesi races in.