Reigning British GT4 champion Stuart Middleton has become the youngest-ever driver to win the Sunoco Whelen Challenge after his only remaining rival, Stuart Moseley, was unable to score enough points during the final round of his Radical European Masters campaign last weekend.
The 17-year-old is now guaranteed a fully funded prize drive at the Rolex 24 At Daytona with Action Express Racing.
The package, worth an estimated $250,000, includes testing at Daytona later this year before taking part in the official ‘Roar Before the Rolex 24’ in early January, followed by the race itself later that month.
Middleton will share the wheel of the Whelen-sponsored Cadillac DPi-V.R with Eric Curran, Mike Conway and former Sunoco Whelen Challenge winner Felipe Nasr, who steps up into a full-season role with the team this year.
“I’m ecstatic, speechless to be honest,” Middleton said. “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.”
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.
“My first season in GT4 with my fantastic teammate Will was just amazing,” he said. “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.”
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 Challenge winner 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.