Groupe Renault today confirmed its plans to stimulate the development of the burgeoning Chinese motorsport scene. Renault Sport and Dongfeng Renault Automotive Company announced upcoming Chinese karter Sun Yue Yang will join the Renault Sport Academy. In parallel, a new scholarship was announced for Chinese drivers competing in Asian Formula Renault.
Sun Yue Yang to join Renault Sport Academy
Yue Yang will join the prestigious Renault Sport Academy, which aims to identify hot young talent at global level and prepare them for the multi-faceted challenges of top-level motorsport.
Fifteen-year-old Yue Yang, who hails from Shanghai, is the first Chinese driver to finish on the podium in the competitive World Series Karting Champions Cup. Currently fifth in the hard-fought series, he also races in the WSK Super Master Series across Europe and was the first Chinese driver to win a round of the German Karting Championship, the DKM. He started karting in 2014, winning seven heats in 2015 and becoming the first Chinese driver to finish in the top 30 drivers.
Alongside current Academy members Jack Aitken, Louis Delétraz, Kevin Jörg and Oliver Rowland, Yue Yang will be given expert guidance on the best career path to reach F1. Signed on a multi-year development deal, Yue Yang will follow a long-term plan that will see him hone his racecraft in karts before making his single-seater debut at the end of the year. In subsequent seasons, he will be given set objectives and continuously evaluated on his increasing technical knowledge and fitness with the target of reaching F1.
The Renault Sport Academy was rejuvenated this year but Renault has long supported young drivers. The first Formula Renault series took place in 1971 and many eminent drivers cut their teeth in the formula, including Jacques Laffite and Jean Ragnotti. Subsequently, Renault offered the winner of the Elf-Winfield Racing school a full year of Formula Renault, with Alain Prost winning the series in 1976. Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton have also been through the ranks of Formula Renault to win multiple Formula 1 titles, while the likes of Robert Kubica, Heikki Kovalainen and Loic Duval have graduated from the Renault Development programme to become race winners.
Fred Vasseur, Racing Director of Renault Sport Racing, commented : ‘The Renault Sport Academy is a highly beneficial tool for young drivers. Firstly, we thoroughly evaluate them to give the right steer through the vast motorsport landscape. Then, they are exposed to the pinnacle of technology through the F1 team and what is required to get there. In short, we aim to turn each Academy driver into an elite athlete, capable of performing to his or her absolute best.
‘The Academy is also a tool for the Renault markets to better engage with motorsport within their own regions. We are pleased and proud to give Renault China the opportunity through the Academy to bring Yue Yang through the ranks. Yue Yang has shown strong potential in WSK to, with the right preparation, work his way to Formula 1. The opportunities for both Yue Yang and Renault China to benefit from this partnership are huge.’
Increased Asian Formula Renault support
In parallel, Renault Sport and Dongfeng Renault Automotive Company launched an initiative to further boost young Chinese drivers’ chances of making it through the motorsport ranks to Formula 1. A new scholarship will be introduced whereby Renault will support the Formula Racing Development talent search. The Chinese driver demonstrating the best potential in the last three rounds of Asian Formula Renault will be offered an opportunity in the Renault Sport Academy in 2017.
This year, 19 drivers will compete in the pan-Asia championship over 12 events in China, Thailand and Korea. Created in 2000, it has been a gateway for both Asian and international drivers looking for a first step on the motorsport ladder. The winner of the series has historically been offered a drive in the Formula Renault 3.5 championship.
François Provost, CEO of DRAC and Director of Operations, Renault China, said : ‘In recent years, there have been very few Chinese drivers who have made it past the junior ranks in motorsport and no Chinese driver has ever competed in a Grand Prix. There are many reasons for this, but one of the recurring ones is a lack of funding to race beyond our national shores.
‘Now, Chinese drivers will compete for the opportunity of becoming a Renault Sport Academy driver where they will be able to learn more and showcase their talents against other international drivers.
‘Equally, the advent of this new scholarship will really put the Asian Formula Renault series on the global motorsport map and back into the ladder towards Formula 1.’
Jean-Pascal Dauce, Renault Sport Customer Racing Program Director, added : ‘For the past 45 years Formula Renault has given numerous drivers the opportunity to take their first steps in motorsport and some have progressed to the highest level. Thanks to our long history with Formula Racing Development, Asian Formula Renault has become one of the stepping stones in the Asian region. With Renault now putting down solid roots in China, opening a new plant in Wuhan to be closer to our clients, it is important for Renault Sport to allow young Chinese drivers the chance to discover the world of motorsport and the different opportunities offered by Renault Sport.’
Kenneth Ma, President of FRD Motorsport, commented : ‘Asian Formula Renault is the longest-running motorsport series in China. The first car was brought to the country by Formula Racing Developments in 1997. Over the past 20 years more than 500 racing drivers have been involved and trained by the championship.
‘This scholarship will encourage talented young Chinese racing drivers to further participate in motorsport. This will have a big impact for young drivers, and the recognition from an F1 team will give even more impetus to compete. For Renault Sport it is also an opportunity to develop future Chinese F1 drivers at a grass roots level.
‘FRD has been trying to find the best drivers for the world. Now, with the help of Renault Sport, I am sure that the Asian Formula Renault Series will go from strength to strength with even more young talented drivers coming through the ranks.’