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Former Junior Scholar Stuart Middleton Set For Rolex 24 At Daytona

30th October 2017 • Ruth Harrison

Stuart Middleton has won a fully funded drive in the Rolex 24 At Daytona. Exactly three years since winning the Ginetta Junior Scholar, the teenager became the youngest driver ever to win the Sunoco Whelen Challenge yesterday.

Since winning his place on the Ginetta Junior grid in 2015, the Ashington teenager has gone on to win the Ginetta Junior Winter Series and secure the Ginetta Junior vice-championship in 2016 before moving up to Ginetta G55 GT4 machinery for 2017 where he claimed the British GT4 Championship title in his first season in the discipline.

His success has been such that the 17-year-old is now guaranteed a fully funded prize drive at the world-famous Rolex 24 At Daytona. The package, worth an estimated $250,000, includes testing at the South Florida venue later this year before taking part in the official ‘Roar Before the Rolex 24’ in early January. That’s followed by the race itself on January 27/28.

Middleton joins the front-running Action Express Racing squad in the Whelen-sponsored Cadillac DPi VR. The incredible opportunity sees the teenager from Ashington, in Northumberland, paired with three superstar co-drivers who will share the #31 Cadillac during the twice-around-the-clock enduro.

“My first season in GT4 with my fantastic team-mate Will Tregurtha was just amazing, we couldn’t believe how competitive we were right from the first round and that was without hardly any testing before the season started. The year just got better and better for us and as well as the GT4 title, the Sunoco prize started to become a possibility too."

Stuart Middleton, 2018 Sunoco Whelen Challenge champion.

Ex-Formula 1 driver Felipe Nasr is also a former Sunoco Whelen Challenge champion, while Mike Conway raced in IndyCar before joining Toyota’s factory LMP1 programme. Team stalwart and 2016 IMSA champion Eric Curran completes the formidable line-up.

Indeed, the combination of Action Express Racing, Cadillac and talented driver crew offers Middleton a realistic chance of claiming a podium on debut. Last year’s Sunoco Whelen Challenge winner – and another Ginetta Junior graduate - Seb Morris led the race aboard the same car before reliability issues stymied the team’s progress, while Nasr’s third place from 2012 remains the best result in the competition’s nine-year history.

Middleton’s success was built on a standout maiden British GT4 campaign alongside HHC Motorsport co-driver Will Tregurtha, who finished second in the final Sunoco Whelen Challenge standings by just 2.2 points. Together they became the youngest driver crew in terms of combined age to win a British GT title and were both also elevated to BRDC Rising Star status.

Stuart Middleton, 2018 Sunoco Whelen Challenge champion: “I’m ecstatic, speechless to be honest. This is such a huge prize and an incredible opportunity for me so early in my career, I can’t thank Anders Hildebrand and everyone at Anglo-American Oil enough. Being part of the Action Express team with Felipe, Mike and Eric is just amazing… it hasn’t quite sunk in yet.

“My first season in GT4 with my fantastic team-mate Will Tregurtha was just amazing, we couldn’t believe how competitive we were right from the first round and that was without hardly any testing before the season started. The year just got better and better for us and as well as the GT4 title, the Sunoco prize started to become a possibility too.

“To win the championship in our rookie year was more than we could have hoped for, and for me to now win the Sunoco Whelen Challenge is the icing on the cake. I really want to grab this chance with both hands and do the very best I can, although it’s not going to be easy.

“This is a huge step-up for me: not only will it be my first ever 24-hour race but it’s going to be in one of the biggest and most demanding races in the world with some of the very best drivers and teams on the planet. It’s going to be amazing driving at Daytona too, something I never realistically thought might happen in my career – this is such a special moment for me and I’m absolutely delighted.”