Wednesday December 22nd, 1999
BAR today announced that it has signed rising British star, Darren Manning, as test driver. The 24-year-old Yorkshireman, who won this year's All-Japan Formula Three title as well as events in Macau and South Korea, has signed a contract to develop a long-term relationship with the Brackley-based Formula One team. Manning, who was particularly impressive in his first Formula One test last week in Jerez for Williams, will take part in all aspects of BAR's test programme with a view to honing his skills and preparing for a full-time Formula One career.
"I've had my eye on Darren for three or four years now," said Rick Gorne, Race Operations Director for BAR. "His performances in the British Formula Three Championship in 1998 were impressive, and he then moved to the All-Japan Formula Three Championship this year, where he dominated. His drive in Macau at the end of the season just served to underline his ability - he took pole position, led every lap and won both heats of the race. The last time anyone did that was 16 years ago, and the driver was Ayrton Senna.
"It's clear that Darren has got that special 'spark' that separates him from other drivers and we now want to help him fine-tune that tremendous natural ability. The 1999 season was a huge learning experience for British American Racing, and by signing Darren now, we are building for the future. This move is just part of what will be a much more extensive programme to bring on new, young driving talent."
Manning, for his part, was understandably excited at the news. "It's absolutely great to be joining British American Racing Honda," he commented. "As a result of the recent Jerez test, I now know I can handle Formula One power. I'm confident I can do a good job for the team and look forward to working with the engineers to help develop the British American Racing Honda into a winning car. Hopefully, if I do a good enough job, I will graduate to the race team. It's a wonderful opportunity and I can't wait to get started."
It was also confirmed that Patrick Lemarie will continue in his role as development driver for BAR.