Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
James Newbold

McLaren Driver Development Programme won't run in 2022 British GT

The scheme was first set up in 2018, run by Tolman Motorsport, and gave young drivers access to professional coaches as well as a salary to race McLaren's 570S GT4.

Charlie Fagg and Michael O'Brien were just two points shy of winning the 2018 GT4 title, James Dorlin and Josh Smith were among the most impressive pairings in 2019 while team-mates Jordan Collard and Lewis Proctor also won a race that year.

Following a hiatus due to the COVID pandemic in 2020, the programme was operated by Rocket Team RJN in 2021, but the team was frequently blighted by misfortune and will concentrate on GT3 racing this year.

The DDP scheme was set for a shake-up in 2022 with the driver deemed to be the most impressive awarded a professional driving contract with McLaren, and 14 drivers were evaluated at Snetterton last autumn.

It was overseen by McLaren's former head of customer racing Danny Buxton, who joined British Touring Car Championship outfit BTC Racing as its new team principal last week.

A statement provided to Autosport by McLaren Automotive said: “We will not be running the McLaren Driver Development Programme in the 2022 British GT Championship. Our motorsport focus this year is on increasing McLaren Customer Racing activities with customer teams in GT4 and GT3 competition worldwide.”

Paddock Motorsport has swapped its Bentley for a McLaren 720S, becoming the sixth team confirmed to run the car this year (Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images)

Paddock Motorsport switches to McLaren

McLaren’s latest addition to its pool of customer teams is Paddock Motorsport, with Kelvin Fletcher and Martin Plowman switching to a 720S GT3 for their second season in the top class.

The 2019 GT4 Pro-Am class champions, Fletcher and Plowman sat out the 2020 season having signed to race with JRM. They were due to link up with the 2011 FIA GT1 world championship-winning outfit last year, but took over the running of the team’s Bentley Continental GT3 with their own startup operation run day-to-day by Plowman’s father Mark.

PLUS: The ex-IndyCar racer in "uncharted territory" of British GT team ownership 

Paddock has prior McLaren experience from running a 570S in GT Cup’s GTH class last year.

Moh Ritson and Tom Rawlings finished second in 2021 and 19-year-old Ritson remains with the team for its entry into the GT4 class of British GT with Ashley Marshall - a winner at Spa last year in Balfe’s McLaren alongside Jack Brown.

Television actor Fletcher took pole at Oulton Park after a maiden podium together with Plowman at Snetterton. After “flying by the seat of its pants last year”, he believes the team is now in a position to challenge in 2022.

“[Paddock Motorsport] was supposed to be something we built slowly, methodically and when time allowed, but the situation dictated otherwise,” Fletcher said.

“Just having the Bentley on track each weekend required a minor miracle and amazing support behind the scenes.

“We learnt a helluva lot in a very short space of time but can now put that experience to good use by expanding further this year. Paddock is already the race team I think we hoped we’d have maybe two or three years down the line.”

Fletcher believes Paddock Motorsport is better-placed to challenge in 2022 (Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images)

Former IndyCar racer Plowman added: “We’re far better equipped to hit the ground running and the McLaren is also a proven performer. You only need to look at the number of them entered to know how highly rated the 720S is by Pros and Ams alike.”

It follows Monday’s announcement that fellow McLaren customer Rocket Team RJN will make a full-time return to the GT3 ranks this year after entering three races in 2021 with Mia Flewitt and Euan Hankey.

James Kell, who finished second in the GT4 standings last year with the team alongside Collard and scored a single win at Snetterton, will be joined by historics racer Simon Watts in a Silver-Am class entry.

Team principal Bob Neville said both drivers had "adapted extremely well" to the 720 which silver pairing O'Brien and James Baldwin took to victory in the opening round of the 2020 season at Oulton Park.

Paddock and RJN’s entries mean there will be at least six GT3 McLarens on the grid, which currently counts 17 GT3 entries. Enduro Motorsport, Greystone GT, Fox Motorsport and 7TSIX have announced single-car efforts.

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.