|Piers Hickin knows open wheel racing in Europe is a bigger money pit than the USA|
An 18-year-old racing driver is taking the fast route to the top in motorsport after being offered a place in the new Formula 4 Championship next year.
Former Winston Churchill School pupil Piers Hickin, who lives in Knaphill, cannot wait to take his seat in the Motorsports Association-backed category, which will follow the same calendar as the British Touring Car Championship.
His selection to race in one of two Scorpio Motorsport cars follows a successful season in the Formula Renault Championship with the team.
Piers was also selected for the McLaren Performance Academy, based at the Formula One team's Woking headquarters, and his junior racing career has not been too different from the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button.
But he believes it is in IndyCar Racing in the United States where his best chances lie of becoming one of the greats.
"I first rode a go-kart when I was nine years old when I was on holiday in Cyprus," he recalled. "I caught the bug then. I was always interested in cars, I would watch the racing on TV."
After returning to England, Piers was soon a regular at Buckmore Park, a track in Kent where both Hamilton and Button honed their karting skills. He immediately took to racing and found that even on his first day he was recording lap times quicker than those of racers who had been doing it for years.
By the age of 11, Piers was racing at national level and had his own kart, one of around 10 his parents Andrew and Jayne helped to buy him as he starred first in the Honda Cadet class and then the Rotax Learning.
To drive is not easy for anyone, even those skilled at karting, as a four-and-a-half foot tall Piers experienced when he felt pressure to be able to race a manual car long before he could apply for a driving licence.
"I was 13 when I first tested a car," he said. "I needed pillows to prop me up so I could see. At that point I was a bit overawed by it. There was so much to learn. It almost put me off."
But after a growth spurt, Piers excelled when he tried racing a car again at the age of 15.
"I was twice the height and I could see where I was going," he said.
After a short stint in Ginetta racing, Piers joined Formula Renault last year, a series which the likes of Hamilton and Kimi RÃ¤ikkÃ¶nen raced in on their way to stardom.
At the end of a development year, Piers teamed up with Scorpio Motorsport, where he found the car, driving coach and professionalism very much suited him.
"I stayed with them for this year and I came second in the championship," he said, having had 12 podium finishes in 15 races and made it to second place overall despite entering the final round in fourth position.
Scorpio Motorsport clearly recognized Piers' potential in selecting him for the exciting new Formula 4 series, starting in the spring. It will feature some of the best young drivers from Britain and overseas and will see him race in front of thousands of fans at venues including Silverstone and Brands Hatch.
"It's had huge interest from inside motorsport," he said. "It'll be great to be part of such a high-profile championship. And there's no reason why we can't go into it with the aim of winning." Piers has received guidance on how to succeed in motorsport both through the McLaren course and at Loughborough College, through the Motorsports Association Academy.
"Growing up as a kid, and for any young driver, the goal was always the Formula One world championship.
"But Formula One is becoming more and more unobtainable for young drivers because of how the budgets are astronomical now. Only the very top drivers are getting paid to do it," he added.
"I would love to do IndyCar racing. That's something I might pursue."