Tolman Motorsport and the McLaren Automotive Driver Development Programme (DDP) revealed their 2020 British GT Championship driver pairings at Snetterton on Tuesday (3 March).
It’s confirmed that Michael Benyahia and Alain Valente will share the #4 Tolman Motorsport McLaren 570S GT4, with Katie Milner and Harry Hayek partnered in the sister #5 entry.
Now in its third season, the Tolman-McLaren DDP venture continues to nurture young motorsport talent, and this year has expanded its reach beyond the UK by recruiting international drivers from Switzerland, North America and Australia.
Having already unveiled a two-car entry wearing striking new liveries penned by Chris Warner Design at Caffeine & Machine on Saturday (29 February), Tolman and McLaren Automotive today confirmed their DDP driver pairings during the official Intelligent Money British GT Championship Media Day.
It was revealed that American young gun Benyahia and Swiss racer Valente will share the #4 Tolman-prepared 570S GT4, while the UK’s Milner and Sydney-born Hayek will join forces in the #5 McLaren.
Benyahia and Valente are expected to be a strong match; they have strikingly similar backgrounds in motor racing, as both began their careers in Formula 4 single-seaters but come with McLaren Customer Racing experience, having previously raced for the same team in ADAC GT4 Germany.
“I’ve raced against Alain (Valente) before in ADAC GT4 and having that experience and the knowledge that we mesh well together should work to our advantage this year,” said Benyahia. “We both have a lot of experience with the McLaren 570S GT4, but I’d say I’m still in the process of adapting from a single-seater style of driving. McLaren’s input has already sped up my progression by helping me identify areas of improvement and I’m naturally going into the 2020 season to do the best I can. I’m super-excited about this opportunity with McLaren and I’m looking forward to a great year in the British GT Championship.”
Valente said: “Michael (Benyahia) and I had a very good 2019 season racing against each other but in the same team, and we pushed each other very hard. We shared data and know each other’s strengths as a result, so I’m sure we will be a good pairing now we’re in the same car, which will be important for everyone involved with Tolman Motorsport and the McLaren Automotive Driver Development Programme. I learnt a lot last year, but this is the start of a new chapter in an unfamiliar championship. I have my goals for the season and they are what I’ll focus on achieving.”
Milner and Hayek, meanwhile, have taken very different career paths and both will surely benefit from one another’s experiences as they adapt to life in the British GT Championship – the world’s premier domestic sportscar category.
York-based Milner arrives at Tolman off the back of victorious campaigns in the Ginetta GT5 Challenge, while Hayek established himself as a race winner in Australian F4 before heading overseas to partake in the British F3 Championship.
However, both have worked closely together since the initial McLaren DDP assessment and insist they will be a well-coordinated and balanced partnership from the outset of the 2020 season.
“I think Harry (Hayek) and I have a lot to learn from each other, coming from contrasting backgrounds, but we get on really well and bring a lot of different strengths to the table, and we will work together to both improve over the course of the year. My life has changed a lot since starting with the McLaren Automotive Driver Development Programme as my sim and fitness training has intensified, and I have far fewer distractions. People have commented on the amount of progress I’ve made, and I feel more than ready to start testing.”
Hayek said: “I’m expecting 2020 to be a good year because all four of the McLaren Automotive Driver Development Programme candidates get on really well. Katie (Milner) and I have had different experiences in our careers, and it’ll be a learning year as I figure out how to take advantage of a GT car with driver aids. However, the training, team-building and assessment days have all helped us bond, and we will have each other and a lot of good people at McLaren and Tolman Motorsport to lean on for support, so I expect to see some good progression.”