Since 2012, Porsche Cars North America (PCNA) and Porsche Motorsport North America (PMNA) have provided 33 aspiring North American race car drivers an opportunity to develop their professional skills at the Porsche Young Driver Academy (PYDA). The eighth edition lists Britt Casey (21 years-old), Riley Dickinson (17), Jeff Kingsley (21) and Hanna Zeller (22) on its class roster. After one year in Southern California, PYDA VIII returned to the Porsche Track Experience on the grounds of Barber Motorsports Park outside of Birmingham, Alabama on November 17 – 18.
While education and guidance have always been the hallmark of the Academy, this year results from the one day of classroom activity and another of on-track sessions will help determine the 2020 Hurley Haywood Scholarship winner. The annual award provides the selected driver a package of tangible assets to present to teams in the IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama for the upcoming season. Porsche and IMSA will announce the recipient at later date.
Porsche, both internationally and in North America, has a long history of driver development. One of the first manufacturers to create not only a “factory driver” group but also a junior program, Porsche continues its efforts to assist young racing talent outside of the “works” efforts. The Porsche Young Driver Academy was founded by two arms of Porsche on this continent to recognize and help develop the talent of drivers competing in a Porsche one-make series, such as Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama and the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama, for Porsche drivers who are currently racing in a non-one-make series – including the Michelin Pilot Challenge – or an IMSA-sanctioned development series that does not race Porsches.
The two-day Academy puts the four drivers through intense classes with the objective to broaden and sharpen talents not only behind the wheel but also out of the cockpit as well. In fact, the first full day is held in the Porsche Track Experience classroom with personality profiles, technical briefings, media training and more without ever touching the steering wheel of a Porsche. The classroom is used to give each participant the tools and understanding to maximize themselves in the variety of situations a professional driver will face throughout his or her career.
While tweaked each year, the Young Driver Academy syllabus is founded on the principles and practices of Porsche’s European Junior selection process. Originally drafted for this market by Porsche’s only North American factory driver, Patrick Long (Manhattan Beach, California), the core of the program beckons back to when Long himself took part on the selection process.
The comprehensive Academy experience includes classroom exercises, on-camera interview skills with renowned automobile documentary maker J.F. Musial of Tangent Vector, media training with Jamie Howe, TV reporter for IMSA and the National Hot Rod Association and Dave Engelman, PCNA Spokesperson, Motorsports and Brand Heritage and personality evaluations by Founder of the Growth Strategies Research, Education and Consulting Group Christina Kisley.
David Brown, Performance Engineer with PMNA provides technical training and constructive critique throughout the process. Brown’s decades of experience includes a distinguished tenure with the Porsche GT Team factory 911 RSR program prior to overseeing on-track performance for PMNA’s multitude of customer efforts in North America. Integrated into his duties are the Porsche 911 GT3 R operations in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTD class.
As they have in the past, Porsche racing legend and lead Porsche Sport Driving School instructor Hurley Haywood and Long each took a leading hand in the process. These world-renowned drivers offer not only invaluable experience behind the wheel of Porsche race cars, they each have an intimate understanding of how to be successful in motorsport out of the car as well.
Patrick Long, Porsche Factory Driver
“It’s important to me to give back to the sport that has given me so much. The Porsche Young Driver Academy is built upon many of the same experiences I was afforded when I first joined Porsche, and it is gratifying to see the positive results of our efforts. Every year the drivers come better prepared for both the classroom and track portions, and it helps raise the bar for future programs.”
Hurley Haywood, Ambassador, Porsche
“I am very happy that we’ve been able to officially combine the IMSA Hurley Haywood Scholarship with the Porsche Young Driver Academy. The quality of our students never fails to impress me and this year is no different. As we look back, the on and off-track successes speak well for the program as well as the attendees, and I expect this year to be no different.”
Dave Engelman, Spokesperson, Motorsport and Brand Heritage, Porsche Cars North America.
“It is more than gratifying to see our past attendees consistently earn big race wins, and year-long championships in IMSA and elsewhere. I know I share the sentiment with the others from our amazing team that not only help put the PYDA together, but offer their expertise and guidance to all of our attendees each year.
2019 Porsche Young Driver Academy Participant Driver Profiles.
Britt Casey Jr., Age: 21
Britt Casey Jr. got his start in racing at the age of seven, racing 50cc and 65cc motorcycles. He moved into karting in the Junior Sportsman Class in 2008. At age 13, Britt transitioned into race cars, racing in the Spec Miata Championship from 2011-2013. There he earned two Most Improved Driver Awards in a row as well as the Worker’s Choice Award. He had his first factory team test at Road Atlanta with Freedom Autosport at age15 in a Mazda MX-5 IMSA ST car. Later that year IMSA gave Britt a competition license with an exemption as he was just 16 years old.
Britt became associated with Mazda Motorsports in 2015. He transferred to Miami University in 2017 to be close1 to Brad Kettler, long-time engineer and Director of Operations for Audi Sport customer racing in North America, who offered Britt an apprenticeship in his racing shop, Kettler Motor Werks Sport & Logistik. In 2018, he raced an Audi RS3 LMS for Compass Racing in IMSA’s first year of IMSA TC and was crowned IMSA TCR Champion.”
Riley Dickinson, Age: 17
Riley Dickinson first raced four wheels in the form of karts at the age of 11. The Texas native, who is from the San Antonio area, began racing Superkarts in his home state in 2013. While having competed in the Florida Winter Tm early in his karting career, Riley has found most of his success in the Lone Star State. From 2014-2017 he competed in five different Superkart USA Texas Prokart Series, becoming champion four times, and receiving vicechampion honors on the fifth occasion. He was the national champion of season 2 of the 2017 SKUSA Shifter Tour.
At 15 years old, Dickinson had formed an extensive karting resume. The next step in his racing development was jumping from karts into a race car. In 2019, Riley raced for Moorespeed in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama. Piloting a Porsche 911 GT3 Cup 911, Riley finished third-overall in the driver’s standings in his rookie campaign. The highlight of the season was his first win in the Platinum division at the season’s last event, Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.
Jeff Kingsley, Age: 21
Jeff Kingsley reigns from Ontario, Canada where he began karting at nine years-old. Kingsley has many karting championships to his name. He has been crowned Canadian Karting Champion four times throughout his career, going back to 2009. He became US Open Champion and Florida Winter Tour Champion in 2016 and 2017, respectively. He has single-seater experience too, earning 2014 Rookie of the Year honors in Formula 1600. Jeff has been a member of Team Canada five times as well. When he is not at the race track, Jeff is a full-time student at Western University in London, Ontario.
Kingsley has had experience driving cup cars for three years now. In 2017, he was Rookie of the Year in the Canadian Touring Championship racing a BMW M235iR for Policaro BMW. Jeff was again Rookie of the Year in 2018 racing his first year in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama driving for Policaro Motorsporti He raced in both GT3 Cup Challenges in 2019, with JDX Racing in the US and Policaro again in Canada. Both campaigns yielded Jeff third place finishes in their respective championships.
Hanna Zellers, Age: 22
Hanna Zellers started karting near her hometown of Granger, Indiana in 2007. In 2008, she was the first female to participate in the Rotax Florida Winter Tour. From 2009-2012 Hanna proved very consistent and capable in karting earning many race wins, podiums and championships. Five years of karting in the Michiana Championship Series led her on the road to becoming a race car driver.
In 2013, she graduated from Skip Barber Racing School and earned both a SCCA and NASA racing license. It would be another two years, however, before Hanna became exposed to multiple different racing cars and series. She competed in a Formula Enterprise car in the SCCA Majors Tour in 2015 and 2016. As well as competing in SCCA Runoffs, she received SCCA Driver of the Year honors. In the past three years, Zellers has experienced driving cars like an E46 M3 BMW, BMW 240 IR, and McLaren GT4. She has gotten the chance to drive in series like Formula Atlantic, US F4, and IMSA LMP3 Prototype Challenge. Hanna has been a test driver, stunt driver or instructor at places like Red Bull Racing, Saleen, Porsche Experience Center and Ferrari Challenge.