Team Parker Racing has announced Frank Bird, Nicolai Kjærgaard, and Euan McKay have been selected to become the first-ever members of the Bentley Motorsport Academy.
Six drivers were initially chosen to join the team at Portimão in Portugal in December, where they undertook a number of assessments which not only included time behind the wheel of its Bentley Continental GT3 but also evaluated how each individual conducted themselves off track.
The successful trio will now join up with Team Parker Racing at all five endurance rounds of GT World Challenge Europe, as well as enjoying the support of Bentley Motorsport and its existing driver ambassadors as they aim to become the next generation of Bentley drivers.
24-year old Euan has some experience in endurance racing, having competed in the series in 2018, and spent last year in the GT4 European Series where he took one win and four second place finishes.
20-year old Frank has raced single-seaters since 2016, competing in the F4 British Championship and Formula Renault Eurocup. He also takes part in rallies during the winter.
Nicolai, also 20 years of age, was team-mate with Frank in F4, finished vice-champion in the BRDC British F3 Championship in 2018, and took five podiums in Euroformula Open last season.
All three will quickly begin preparations for the series’ test days at Paul Ricard in France on March 12-13, with the opening round of the season taking place at Monza in Italy one month later. The season, which includes the prestigious 24 Hours of Spa, ends at the Nürburgring in Germany in September.
In a late addition, Bentley was approached by talented 18-year old Pierre-Alexandre Jean after the assessment day. The Frenchman will also benefit from the Academy’s training programme but is not expected to compete with Team Parker Racing this season.
Frank Bird: “It was a huge honour to even be selected to take part in the test. There were three of us on each day, but we weren’t allowed to see lap times or data or anything like that, so we were really in the dark. After the test, we had to wait a month to find out if we had done enough and luckily, I did. I can’t believe it really; it is a huge opportunity, so I have to thank Team Parker Racing and Bentley for this.
“It is a whole new discipline for me; I have to work with two other drivers. We’re all quite different so hopefully, we can work together, bring the most out of each other and work with the team to produce it on track. Nicolai and I were team-mates three years ago in F4, but I first met Euan at the test. We’ve all got on really well so I think there is a good team dynamic and we’ll work well through the season. Bentley is really passionate about the whole package, not just the driving, and I am really lucky to get this opportunity.”
Nicolai Kjærgaard: “At Portimão there were six drivers, so it was quite challenging, especially for me as it was the first time in the car. It was very exciting to try out the Bentley and now I have been chosen I am very happy.
“Going into GT racing it is very good to have a manufacturer like Bentley to learn from, especially in PR and fitness but also in driving the car. They seem to have a good understanding and are good at explaining what you need to do to drive the car quickly. Personally, winning this drive is a big recognition that I am doing a good job, and someone believed I could become a professional racing driver. Professionally it is a great opportunity to learn from some really good guys with a lot of experience, how the endurance world works, and how to drive a GT car.”
Euan McKay: “I am really proud to be selected. It feels like it has been a long winter already! We’re still in January and I am chomping at the bit to get started. To be part of the Bentley Motorsport Academy is a huge privilege for me.
“Frank and Nicolai are nice guys and quick, so I am looking forward to seeing what we can achieve together. In terms of driver changes it is new for them, but not for me, so I am going to use my experience to help the guys get into the swing of things quickly.
“I got an email, a nice email, from Stuart just before Christmas. The subject was ‘Merry Christmas’ so I remember looking at it and my heart was racing, seeing Bentley and ‘congratulations you have been selected.’ It was a huge moment for me to have that confirmed and realise I’ll be driving a Bentley next year, be part of this new programme, having the support of Bentley, to be associated with the brand, to have the support from Team Parker Racing is just a dream come true and I cannot wait to get started.”
Stuart Parker, Team Principal, Team Parker Racing: “We’re over the moon with the three drivers. We think there’s great potential individually, and particularly as a collective, so it is a very exciting time. That part of the programme is over, and we can’t wait to get the real work started now.
“The simplest factor is the speed in the car and all three showed well during the assessment with that, but there was also the ability to learn and listen to what they were told by the engineers and how they interacted with the team. These guys stood out and it was a unanimous decision in the end. Everybody felt the same way and we genuinely feel there is potential for all three to work together.
“The most exciting part is that we have drivers from different backgrounds, but as a collective, I think that will work because they will draw strength and learn from each other. There’s a lot of room for them to progress and grow through the year and we are enthused by the line-up.”
Paul Williams, Director of Motorsport, Bentley Motors: “Team Parker Racing gave us feedback of all six drivers based on how they were on track and how they worked with the team and all were strong candidates. We then discussed which drivers we felt had the potential to become a Bentley works team racer one day and then which of those were ready for the challenge right now. This left us with our three GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Silver Cup drivers and inaugural Bentley Motorsport Academy squad.
”We thought that was ‘job done’ but then Pierre-Alexandre [Jean] came along and we were impressed with his professionalism and approach. Although he won’t be in the Team Parker Racing Silver Cup Continental GT3, we have invited him to join the Bentley Motorsport Academy and benefit from the training schedule we have planned.”