The McLaren GT Driver Academy, formerly known as the McLaren young driver programme, has announced an expanded driver line-up for 2016, with single-seater converts Struan Moore and Alex Fontana joining existing member Andrew Watson in the squad.
The line-up is expected to expand further, with all three drivers set to participate in McLaren’s GT testing programme in addition to their racing commitments.
Talking at the Autosport International Show, Moore spoke about the reasons why he joined McLaren and its GT roster, citing just how difficult it is to make a career out of single seater racing in the modern era, but was ecstatic to join such an illustrious team for his sportscar debut.
“Basically, when I was in BRDC F4, I was always thinking about the long time future in this industry and it was difficult to find strategy or a path in the single seater route as everybody else will tell you,” said Moore to The Checkered Flag.
“So after BRDC F4, I went out to Japan to learn about the Japanese industry because it seems liked there was more of a career out there, and now know the industry out there, I know some of the key people out there i know i can trust and potentially want to race for, and McLaren all came about after Japan, because I was looking to do sportscars.
“Incredible team to be with, I couldn’t think of anywhere else where I’d want to be starting off my sportscar career, its the perfect family.”
Looking back at his 2015 season in Japanese Formula 3, Moore revealed just how difficult a season it was, especially having to learn new tracks during free practice on Friday mornings.
“2015 was character building, it was eventful, but also there was some good highs from it all,” said Moore. “There was a really tough grid in Japanese F3.
“Japan is just so out there that not many people go there and there is more opportunity. The grids are a bit smaller in F3 but it was a class grid. I learnt a lot from them and I’d love to do it again one day.
”Some of the tracks I was turning up without any testing, and we’d go straight into Friday practice, and it doesn’t matter, first year in F3, first year in Japan, turning up for the race weekend against guys who have been doing it since they were twelve, you can’t compete.”
Moore looked at the sportscar drivers he competed against during his year in Japan, and recognises that he will be learning his GT racecraft in 2016.
“[In] Fuji I’d been there twice before to test, and I rocked up and qualified P4 and P4, only half a tenth off pole,” said Moore. “I out-qualified [Katsumasa] Chiyo who is the Blancpain champion from this year, and Lucas [Ordóñez] as well, I raced him all year, he’s a highly regarded sportscar racer so I think I can do well.
“Naturally it’s going to take some learning this year. This is more of a long term career move rather than trying to work with teams in single seaters and seeing how far you get.”
Although signed up to the McLaren GT roster, Moore is not yet sure on where he will be racing in 2016, although McLaren have a present in the Blancpain GT championships with its 650s GT.
“I don’t really know yet [where I’ll be racing yet], McLaren are going to be using all their drivers and [will] try and find out where to put us,” revealed Moore.
“On the academy its me, Alex Fontana and Andrew Watson, whether or not I’ll be team-mates with them I don’t know yet, but they are on the academy, but I don’t know where I’ll be exactly, we’ll find out soon.
“I tested [the car] in Barcelona, I only did twenty-five laps, I wanted to do more but there wasn’t enough light in the day. The McLaren 650s GT is very quick, very well engineered, a professional outfit, its brilliant.
“I think this year I need to learn as much as possible from the people around me and also the competition is going to be very professional, some have been looking to win the Blancpain championship for years, so its going to be fierce but I’ll learn a lot, and then the second year we can really build on the experience.”