The Ferrari Driver Academy (FDA) has selected two Australian candidates to represent the Asia Pacific and Oceania region at the FDA Scouting World Finals in Italy.
Victorian (Moorabbin) Jesse Lacey and Costa Toparis from New South Wales (Goulburn) were the two applicants successful in obtaining a spot in the Finals, which will take place at the iconic Ferrari facility in Fiorano.
Having undergone an application and interview process with representatives from the Ferrari Driver Academy and Motorsport Australia, both drivers have been invited to Italy to complete a variety of tests and activities for a potential place in the Maranello young driver program.
Since debuting as a nine-year-old in 2016, Lacey has enjoyed a stellar career in Karting.
The Victorian boasts an impressive record and has stood on a podium 85 times out of the 115 races he contested during his first four years, as well as having won multiple races at state, national and international level.
“I feel over the moon to have been selected. Words can’t describe how I feel, but I suppose it hasn’t really sunk it yet,” Lacey said.
“It was a bit of a surprise to be honest. I was obviously confident in myself and I thought I could at least make it to the interview stage, but to be chosen to go to the next stage is amazing.
“I had tears of happiness when I found out because it means I am heading in the right direction and now have the opportunity to prove myself to Ferrari in the Scouting World Finals.
”I’ve done karting in Italy before and I loved it, but this is a totally different experience and I am going to give it my all. I won’t leave anything on the table.
“I would like to thank Motorsport Australia and Ferrari for this opportunity. I just hope I can do Australia proud and go even further.”
Toparis on the other hand has had a hugely impressive run of form having won 50 races this year alone.
Since 2016, he is often regarded as one of the quickest on track having amassed a number of state titles, as well as enjoying plenty of success on a national and international scale. Toparis believes the extremely competitive Australian drivers have been a force in refining his driving skills.
“I feel flattered to have made it this far. The Ferrari Driver Academy is such a prestigious opportunity and to be selected as one of the candidates for the Finals feels amazing,” Toparis said.
“I think it’s a major step forward as I continue my career in motorsport.
“I want to thank my parents and family for everything they have done to support my racing career as well as how hard they tried to get me overseas for the event during the pandemic.
“I would like to thank Motorsport Australia, Ferrari and Karting Australia for this opportunity and I am sure both Jesse and myself will give it our all in the true Australian spirit.”
Unfortunately as a result of the current Australian COVID-19 international travel restrictions, the Toparis family made the extremely tough decision not to attend this years program after exhausting all possible methods of appropriate return travel from Italy.
“I am devastated that I won’t be able to attend but I wish Jesse all the best and believe he can bring it home for team Australia,” Toparis added.
“If motor racing has taught me anything, it’s that after a hard hit, you have to get back up and go again.”
Motorsport Australia Director of Motorsport and Commercial Operations Michael Smith was pleased for both drivers in being selected for the Scouting World Finals.
“A big congratulations must go out to Jesse and Costa for being selected to go represent the Asia Pacific and Oceania region at the FDA Scouting World Finals,” Smith said.
“Jesse and Costa have quite impressive racing records and they obviously presented very well during their interviews, so it’s great they get this opportunity to showcase their skills against the best young drivers in the world.
“It’s unfortunate Costa decided not to attend the FDA World Finals, but these are difficult times and we understand his position in this particular moment.
“Costa is undoubtedly a hugely talented driver and we’re hopeful he will be selected for next year when the world situation has hopefully improved and the current restrictions will be eased.
“As for Jesse, we wish him all the best for his time in Italy.”
Karting Australia CEO Kelvin O’Reilly echoed Smith’s comments.
“They have both shown plenty of maturity coming through the karting system and we’re delighted for both of them as they now get this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” O’Reilly added.
“This is just the start of their journey and even if they’re not successful in winning a position in the academy next year, they can still be content with what they have achieved thus far.
“We couldn’t be prouder that two Australians have done enough to be selected for the Ferrari Driver Academy World Finals, and it just goes to show that Australia has a fantastic development program for young kids aspiring to have motorsport careers.
“Costa is a terrific driver and one with lots of promise and it’s a shame that he was unable to go but I am sure he will grow from this and use it to motivate himself in the future.”