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AirAsia Team Lotus Driver Development Program
Team Lotus F1 car
AirAsia, the world’s best low-cost carrier, today formally announced the continuation of its involvement in Formula One™ by extending its partnership with Team Lotus for the 2011 season.

The announcement, made at the AirAsia Team Lotus live street demonstration event in Putrajaya was attended by Team Lotus Team Team Principal Datuk Seri Dr. Tony Fernandes and Team Lotus Deputy Team Principal Dato’ Kamarudin Meranun, AirAsia X Sdn. Bhd Chief Executive Officer, Azran Osman-Rani, Team Lotus Chief Executive Officer Riad Asmat and AirAsia Regional Head of Commercial, Kathleen Tan.

Also present were Alex Yoong, the Head of AirAsia Team Lotus Development Program and Team Lotus drivers Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen. 

The partnership marks the second year the airline is supporting the Malaysian Formula One™ outfit and AirAsia is also extending its involvement in motorsports, beyond its sponsorship of the Formula One™ team by committing to the long term development and growth of young talents through the AirAsia Team Lotus Driver Development Program.   

The AirAsia Team Lotus Driver Development Program, a joint initiative between AirAsia and Team Lotus is aimed at discovering bright, young talents with the passion and drive to excel in motorsports.

Those selected to be part of the program will be trained and exposed to all the underpinnings of a motorsports team. 

Speaking of the partnership, Kathleen said, “Motorsports have long proven to be a successful channel for brands to be associated with and AirAsia have long enjoyed a strong association with Formula One™. We are proud to continue the relationship we started a year ago with Team Lotus, a young dynamic Anglo / Malaysian team, backed by a brand synonymous with motor racing.

“Aside from the creative activation, digital and social media campaigns, the association with one of the world’s most successful motorsport brands also gives us an opportunity to tap into a wider consumer base, and allows us to market the AirAsia brand to promote our routes and network of our services in new and existing markets."

“While we continue to leverage on our partnership with Team Lotus, we are also excited at the opportunity offered through the AirAsia Team Lotus Driver Development Program which provides us with the platform to develop more talent, more of our stars, our own content and ultimately, our own heroes.”

Riad Asmat, Team Lotus CEO and GP2 Team AirAsia Team Principal, said “On behalf of Team Lotus and Team AirAsia I am absolutely delighted that we have now unveiled the Team Lotus AirAsia Driver Development Program. Since the very first days of Team Lotus we have wanted to give young drivers from Asia and around the world the chance to develop their talents and use our experience to help them achieve their goals, on and off track. Through Team Lotus in F1™ and Team AirAsia in GP2 we have the perfect platforms to provide aspiring World Champions with a clear route to the very top and with AirAsia as our key partner in the Program we have a team of people to call on whose core philosophy is about making dreams come true.”

The launch of the program, which culminated with LIVE runs of the Team Lotus Formula One™ car by team drivers, Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen, as well as AirAsia Team Lotus Driver Development Program driver Alexander Rossi, on the streets of Putrajaya also included a flyby by AirAsia’s Team Lotus branded A320 aircraft. The event was also attended by the youngsters who are currently part of the AirAsia Team Lotus Driver Development Program.  Besides the live run and the meet and greet session with Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen, the public had the opportunity to go on the kart and pocket bike rides which were made available for free.

About the AirAsia Team Lotus Driver Development Program:

The AirAsia Team Lotus Driver Development Program was initiated in early 2010 in conjunction with AirAsia. From the early days of just two drivers in 2010, 2011 now sees the talent development pool expand to seven drivers, giving an array of talent from around the world the chance to climb through the ranks, right up to the ultimate motor racing challenge – the Formula One World Championship.

The Driver Development Program’s primary objective is to use the expertise with Team Lotus to help grow the best young driving talent from across the globe. Around the drivers selected is an organization that nurtures and supports the drivers through career guidance, coaching and sponsorship procurement.

Formula One drivers are athletes and the AirAsia Team Lotus Development Drivers mirror their F1 counterparts with the same physical and mental training to ensure their race preparation is perfect. The rigors of driving a Formula One Car are immense and the earlier a driver can learn the work ethic needed to succeed the more likely he will be successful in Formula One.

All ten drivers are part of the Team Lotus family and they are taught not only how to race, but also given in-depth insight into the inner workings of the F1 team – from vehicle dynamics to simulators, giving them an in-depth understanding of the relationship between them and the cars they compete in.

AirAsia has been an important part of the selection process of these drivers. The team at AirAsia have the same belief in nurturing youth so that our young drivers are not just the quickest racers on track but also the most well balanced, helping them prepare fully for the journey ahead of them as they strive to become Formula One World Champions of the future.

AirAsia Team Lotus Driver Development Program (AATLDDP) Drivers’ Profiles

Alexander Rossi
Name: Alexander Rossi
Age:  19 years-old
Country: USA
Hailing from Nevada City, California, Alexander is a graduate of the Skip Barber Racing School; the world’s largest racing school where he competed in the Skip Barber National Championship in 2006. He finished third overall in the series and with seven wins, Alexander became the youngest race winner for the race series at the age of 14.

In 2007, the teenager finished third overall at the Formula BMW Americas series. He returned to the series the following year and was crowned champion of the 2008 season after winning 10 races. He then went on to win the Formula BMW World Champion in the same year and won a test with the BMW F1 team as his reward.

2009 saw Alexander making his way to Europe where he competed in the International Formula Master where he finished fourth and was the highest placed rookie in the series.

The youngster then made his way into the GP3 in 2010 to race for the ART Grand Prix team and ended the season with two wins and in fourth place in the overall standings.

In 2011 Alexander will be competing in the very competitive World Series by Renault.

Name: Tanart Sathienthirakul
Age: 18 years-old
Country: Thailand
Touted as the best driving talent to come out of Thailand since Prince Bira, the champion junior karter for the Asian Karting Open Championship has been race karting in Europe for the last two years in the KF2 class.

Last year, he won the final round of the CIK-FIA World Championship and finished 6th overall.  For 2011, he will continue in racing in the highly competitive KF2 championship in Europe.

Name: Matt Parry
Age: 17 years-old
Country: United Kingdom
Matt’s foray into motor sports began with motocross bikes when he was eight and it was two years later when he decided that he preferred go-karts instead.

Said to be one of the emerging talents from the UK and number one on Motoring News’ list for the top 50 drivers to look out for, Matt was the 2009 Formula Kart Stars champion where he dominated the series right from the start. The same year also saw him start the Rotax World Finals in pole position where he finished in second place.

In 2010, Matt led the standings of the prestigious Super 1 British Championship throughout the season before being crowned champion. This year he is moving up to cars with the Works Van Diemen team in European and British Formula Ford.

Name: Max Klinkby-Silver
Age: 16 years-old
Country: Denmark
Born in the UK to an English Father and Danish Mother, Max got his first go-kart when he was 12 years-old and started racing competitively in 2006.

He has grown into one of the most exciting kart talents around and in 2008 he moved from the junior category to the KF3 class. Last year he competed in the Master and the WSK Euro KF2 Championship.

Max is currently with team JRP and is competing in the International KF2 category and he recently qualified in Pole position for the prestigious Winter Cup out of 102 KF2 drivers.

Name: Weiron Tan
Age: 16 years-old
Country: Malaysia
Although Weiron only started karting at 13, in three short years he has become one of the most exciting karting talents from Malaysia.
In 2010, Weiron won the Yamaha International Challenge at the age of 15 although the competition was meant for those 17 and above. The same year also saw him emerge as the runner of the Asian Karting Open Championship in the KF2 category. For this year, Weiron will compete in Europe with the Works Kosmic Kart team.

Name: Senna Iriawan
Age: 14 years-old
Country: Indonesia
Recipient of Rookie of the Year Award (Junior Class) at the 2009 Indonesian Karting Award, Senna is seen as one of the most promising talents from the country.

In 2010, he won the Asian Karting Open Championship (KF3 category) and also emerged as the Indonesian Junior Championship.
Like Daim, Senna will be spending 2011 between Europe and Asia to gain more exposure and experience.

Name: Daim Hishamuddin
Age: 12 years-old
Country: Singapore
The first to join the AATLDDP, Daim started fun-karting at the age of eight and just two years later as a rookie, the youngster impressed many after being crowned the Yamaha SL Cadet Cup champion in 2008.

The following year, he continued his success by emerging as champion in the Rotax Max Challenge Asia in the Micromax category. In 2010, Daim completed a hat trick by winning the Yamaha SL Cadet Cup to give him three championships in a row.

In 2011 the 13 year-old will be in racing in Europe for the first time in the KF3 category and will also be racing in the Asian Karting Open Championship.

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