Barnicoat joins Hitech for EF3 campaign

Racing Steps Foundation-backed driver Ben Barnicoat will make his previously announced step up to the 2016 Formula 3 European Championship with series newcomers Hitech GP.

The 19 years-old multi-championship winner - who finished fourth in the 2015 Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup standings - will join 2015 Euro F3 race-winner George Russell and Formula Renault 2.0 NEC graduate Nikita Mazepin in the three-car, Mercedes-powered squad.

Barnicoat tested with the AOTech-backed team at Jerez in December as part and parcel of a comprehensive evaluation process conducted by Racing Steps Foundation co-ordinator Derek Walters.

"The team, new as it is, has impressive credentials and deep-seated F3 knowhow thanks in large part to the backing it is receiving from AOTech, the joint venture between ART Grand Prix and OAK Racing," said Walters.

"The technical tie-up places world-class aero, CFD, simulator and engineering resources at Hitech's disposal and, unsurprisingly, was an important factor in the decision-making process.

"We were also impressed by the team's out-and-out professionalism, its close attention to driver wellbeing and the fact that in only its second preparatory run-out at Hockenheim last year it claimed two top-five finishes."

The recruitment of well-respected race engineer John McGill as director of engineering was also a factor in the decision to place Barnicoat with the Silverstone-based squad.

McGill engineered Barnicoat's RSF stable-mate Jake Dennis to third in the 2015 Euro F3 championship.

Two-times McLaren Autosport BRDC Award finalist Barnicoat said: "I can't wait to start testing in earnest. It's been a bit of a wait while contractual matters have been sorted but I couldn't be happier.

"Hitech is a top team which has everything in place to succeed. Obviously I'll be on a steep learning curve and up against a really strong and experienced team-mate in George Russell. But my gut feeling is I'm in exactly the right place to serve my F3 apprenticeship."

Team boss Oliver Oakes said: "We are extremely happy to confirm Ben as part of our FIA F3 line up. We evaluated several drivers for the seat towards the end of last year and Ben impressed us immediately in Jerez.

"Ben was straight on the pace of the experienced drivers and his technical feedback was impressive for a driver new to Formula 3.

"Whilst he may be a rookie to Formula 3 his pedigree from karting and his results in Formula Renault over the past two years shows what we can expect from him over the course of this season."

Between now and the end of the month Barnicoat will undergo simulator training in Paris and a seven-day fitness camp in Norway.