Porsche’s commitment to North American motorsports was redoubled with the launch of the continent’s first Carrera Cup single-make series for 2021, and along with the new series came an increased commitment to shepherding the next generation of driving talent.
The Porsche Junior Program North America is a crucial component of the manufacturer’s premier continental single-make series offering coaching and opportunity to aspiring professional drivers aged 23 and under.
At stake: a coveted spot in the end-of-season Junior Driver Shootout and the chance to become a Porsche Junior up for grabs as a reward for their performance in the Porsche Carrera Cup North America presented by The Cayman Islands.
While Porsche Motorsport North America utilized a single-weekend Young Driver Academy from 2012–2020 to evaluate up and coming talent, Porsche Motorsport North America President and CEO Dr. Daniel Armbruster told Sportscar365 that the new Junior program brings North America in line with Porsche’s global development program.
“It’s more a renovation, not really a significant change in the entire concept because we were already doing a very good job,” said Armbruster. “The program was established with Patrick Long and PCNA [Porsche Cars North America]. Patrick was the driving force behind it.
“With mainstreaming all worldwide activities the North American market just adjusted last year so it is more comparable what we are doing and more in line with Porsche’s worldwide activities.
“That is the reason we started the Carrera Cup. We have these series worldwide and I think it’s a good benefit for the American market to step up to the crown of one-make racing with the Carrera Cup.
“The Porsche Junior programs are worldwide. We also have different activities in the different markets and they are called different things in different place.
“For the Porsche Junior Program, our goal was to have one program in the different markets so that the markets could also compare themselves and so that the education level was the same because all the different markets are sending one person to the Shootout in Europe.”
While speed and race craft are natural points of emphasis in any young driver program, Porsche’s goes beyond the cockpit in its curriculum.
Of the six different ‘modules’ the drivers complete under the new-for 2021 program, only two have anything directly to do with performance behind the wheel while emphasis is also placed on brand ambassadorship, mental and physical fitness, and media training, among other aspects.
Armbruster said the idea is to create a well-rounded individual who can succeed outside of the hyper-specific world of motorsports.
“With these six modules we can prepare every driver quite well so that he understands what he is in general, he can work on his physical and psychological fitness, and he can work on the hardware which is to say the car,” he said.
“It’s a 360-degree approach just to give everyone all the assets and all the knowledge. It covers lots of different topics but it comes together very homogeneously into an entire picture.
“One thing I realized is how important it is for the young drivers to give them a backup solution. What they are learning in the program is beyond racing. That gives you the foundation for your backup solution.
“That’s what I’m telling the guys: just one can go to the shootout in Germany and ultimately one of the worldwide participants can win the shootout.
“From the statistics, the probability is pretty low to win the entire shootout in Germany. For that, and also in racing, you need to have a backup solution in your back pocket.
“I want to put them in the position where if they can’t earn their living with racing then probably they will have enough knowledge from Porsche to be a manager in a company or a team, or found their own company and come back as a customer with talent in racing and a very strong hobby.”
Drivers Eager for Shootout Opportunity
The carrot dangling in front of all eight drivers in this year’s crop is the opportunity to earn one of the guaranteed spots in the Porsche Junior Shootout in Germany where a single driver will be selected for a factory Junior role and partially backed in the prestigious Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup.
While North Americans have been selected in the past on a wildcard basis, 2021 marks the first time that the continent’s representative is not only assured, but that driver will enter on even footing having driven on the same tire and with the same Porsche 911 GT3 Cup race car technical specifications as the rest of the shootout field the season prior.
Second-generation racer Seb Priaulx, who leads the championship through four races, says the program and its incentives have the potential to be hugely beneficial for his career.
“It’s not just about being quick, it’s about being a professional out of the car and being a role model for Porsche,” he told Sportscar365.
“Obviously being quick in the car helps, but being a nice guy and clever out of the car and presentable is important for Porsche.
“[The shootout] is what everyone is aiming for this year. Supercup is one of those things; it’s a big championship and very well recognized as a top championship.
“My aim is to win this year, to be champion, and hopefully that comes along with it.”
Priaulx’s championship rival Riley Dickinson is the 2020 Hurley Haywood Scholarship winner and took part in the single-weekend Porsche Young Driver Academy in 2019.
Dickinson said he’s already seen the benefits of the enhanced new-for-2021 version of the program and believes North America will be well represented by whoever comes out on top.
“The main thing that Porsche Motorsport North America and Porsche has been focusing on for this Junior program for all of the participants, is it goes much deeper than just the on track performance,” he said.
“For example, marketing, personal fitness, how to generate sponsors and excitement for the brand, it’s actually pretty interesting to learn that other side of motorsports.
“What actually goes on at the race track is only five, ten percent of the real picture.
“It’s been really beneficial for me to learn that other side of motorsports from high level professionals within Porsche and also with experts that they have brought in to help guide us through this year.
“So far it’s been an unbelievable program that they’ve put together.
“Being able to have the same rules package, Carrera Cup to Carrera Cup, country and market to market, it’s huge.
“To be able to go overseas and be on the same level playing field, you’re not having to spend ‘x’ amount of time getting up to speed with a different tire and a different braking package.
“It’s definitely a big difference for sure. It would be pretty interesting to see whoever does end up getting the invite how they place relative to years past because I think you’ll see an increase in placement from the American market for sure.”