Matt Rao - HillspeedChampionship winning Protyre Formula Renault team Hillspeed is delighted to officially confirm Matt Rao as its initial driver signing for the 2013 campaign, the 18-year-old set to embark on his first full season in the category.

Having debuted in Protyre Formula Renault with Hillspeed during last year’s championship finale, before remaining with the Hathersage squad for the 2012 Winter Series, Rao is setting his sights on mounting a consistently strong challenge this season and becoming a regular top five runner.

Prior to his graduation into ‘slicks and wings’ action, the Oxford Brookes University student raced for two years in the Dunlop MSA Formula Ford Championship of Great Britain. Finishing second in the Scholarship Class in 2011, the Briton – who also has a family home in Toulouse, France – went on to become Duratec Class Champion last year with one victory and 11 other podiums.

“Ideally, I want to be finishing in the top five most weekends and trying to mount a challenge for a few podiums but we’ll have to see where we are when the season starts”, said Rao, “The winter has gone really well, we did the Winter Series and we’ve done a lot of running in testing – we put in over 1,000 miles at Guadix – so we’ve been preparing well.

“I have quite a smooth style and the wings of the Formula Renault help that, you need to be a lot more precise with the Renault and that definitely suits me more. The team is great, they’re a really nice bunch of guys and they know what they’re doing. We’ve all gelled well and I’m really looking forward to the season.”

Hillspeed, of course, has enjoyed a great deal of success in recent years in Protyre Formula Renault with the highlight being championship victory in 2010 with Alice Powell, who has since gone on to graduate into FIA Formula One World Championship support category GP3 Series.

The Derbyshire team has also won the Winter Series title twice, in 2008 with James Theodore and in 2011 with Spaniard Victor Jimenez. In addition, Hillspeed also steered Richard Singleton to the 2007 Formula Renault UK Winter Series title.

“It’s great to officially confirm Matt for Protyre Formula Renault this year, he’s had a very positive winter during testing and we’re confident he’s going to make big strides”, said Hillspeed team principal Richard Ollerenshaw, “We enjoyed working with him at the end of last season and through the Winter Series and we’re delighted to be able to continue that relationship into 2013.”

Hillspeed is still talking to several other drivers regarding its Protyre Formula Renault programme and is expected to confirm its second signing in due course.

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.