Just days after being voted the top British saloon car driver of the year in an annual poll, Edinburgh’s Oli Mortimer has learned the race team which was to take him through to the British Touring Car Championship has folded.
The 26-year-old Scot, who dominated the 2009 British Mini Cooper Championship with the Ellesmere Port-based Formula International team, was being groomed by the outfit to graduate to BTCC in 2011.
But yesterday the talented Scot, voted top National Saloon Car Driver in the Motorsport News poll, was told Formula International would not continue into 2010 as a result of the financial downturn.
“Obviously it’s not the way I wanted to start the year,” Mortimer admitted, “but I have to thank the team for the support and the car they gave me last year to win the Mini title.”
Undaunted, Mortimer — who has won every Scottish and British Mini championship he has entered in his first year — is now planning to switch to the inaugural British Trofeo Abarth 500 Championship.
The televised championship has been introduced as a low-cost series to the drivers. Each race car will owned by a UK-based Abarth dealer and then ‘rented’ to a driver. Scots car giant Arnold Clark will hold further talks this week with Fiat regarding running an Abarth 500 race car.
“It’s an all-new championship for 2010 which will be run as a support race to many of the biggest races in Britain this year,” Mortimer explained. “Now we have to do everything we can to make sure we can get the budget in place to compete.”
The championship, which uses race-tuned Fiat Abarth 500 cars, will be fought over seven rounds at Oulton Park, Silverstone and Brands Hatch and will support the FIA Formula Two Championship, World Touring Cars and British F3 and GT championships.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity to race in front of big crowds and show people from some of the biggest teams in the country just what I can do,” Mortimer, whose race car would be prepared by Edinburgh-based Tyncastle Garage, continued.
“The low-cost format is also attractive both to me as a driver, and to the Abarth dealership who could then sell the car on at the end of the season to recoup much of their investment.
“It’s a terrific opportunity for a Scottish company to back a championship-winning Scottish driver, receive excellent television exposure and, hopefully, forge a long-lasting and successful partnership.”