Driven Jamison believes he has the formula to succeed
When Ross Jamison lines up for the start of next weekend's opening rounds of the Formula BMW Asia Championship in Malaysia, he embarks on a journey he hopes will take him to the pinnacle of motor racing - Formula One.
The Hong Kong teenager will be thrown in the deep end of an extremely competitive and unforgiving motor-racing environment starting at the Sepang International Circuit.
Jamison, 17, will compete among the youngest and most culturally diverse field of drivers ever assembled since the championship's inception in 2003 and the Hong Kong-born driver knows he must perform if he is to convert his dream to reality.
The series has 16 drivers registered from 11 countries and territories, representing more than half the world's population.
Represented on the grid for 2007, along with Hong Kong, are China, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Pakistan, South Africa, Thailand, and the United States.
Apart from Malaysia, the 22-round series will take drivers to circuits in Indonesia and across China, with the penultimate rounds being part of the Formula One weekend in Shanghai in October and the grand finale in Zhuhai.
'I'm very excited about the first round and can't wait to go racing,' said Jamison, who will be representing Team Meritus as one of the brightest talents in the series. 'I don't think it will be a moment of truth as we are viewing this year as a learning experience. However, I still expect to be competitive.'
Although the KGV student knows winning the championship - considered Asia's premier entry-level single-seater series - will probably be beyond his reach in his first full season in formula racing, he wants to make his mark as he finally gets the exposure he has been seeking.
'Obviously, being a racing driver you always want to win outright. However, as this is my first year running in formula cars, I believe winning the Rookie Cup title would be both satisfactory and a realistic goal,' he said.
As he will be under the tutelage of BMW Motorsport instructors - for everything from driving to fitness - Jamison knows he will become more competitive as the season unfolds, and he is targeting podium finishes before the season winds up in November. That's how confident he is.
'I expect to be regularly challenging for podium places, especially at tracks where little previous testing has taken place,' he said.
And although Jamison will be competing against older and more experienced drivers in the series, he said he would 'just have to learn quickly'.
Hong Kong's most successful single-seat driver, Marchy Lee Yin-kin, believes Jamison can go far in a sport where very few drivers make the grade.'It's not going to be easy for Ross but he has the talent to go far,' said Lee, who has relaunched his own career after a year in the doldrums. 'He needs to mature very quickly as a driver, though, and he must be mentally and physically prepared at all times.
'Ross will have to build his image and enhance his public relations side. He will need to be with a good management team or good manager and he will always need to take care of his image.
'Becoming a professional driver is not just about being fast on the track, you also have to be a star off the track. To be a professional driver, you do need to be somebody special. Of course it's hard work but it's also very rewarding,' said Lee, the 2004 Formula BMW champion who is also pursuing his hopes and dreams, competing in two series - the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia championship and the open-wheel Formula V6 Asia by Renault series. 'What he should be looking for this season is to draw as much experience as possible from his situation with the hope of challenging for the title next year,' said Lee.
'Ross has definitely got potential. He's got the speed and he's with a good team. It's quite possible for him to achieve something special.'
Mike Strotmann, chief instructor at Formula BMW, was impressed by Jamison's single-minded approach when the teenager went up against more than 20 hopefuls in the scholarship trials in Bahrain in February.
'Lap times are not the primary criteria for awarding a scholarship, but more the driving style and attitude,' said Strotmann. 'The driver has to convince the instructors he or she has good potential for development. Having said that, Ross achieved very good lap times.
'Despite his youth, Ross has a very mature, professional approach. He also demonstrated a real ability to learn fast, understanding how to put the theoretical advice of the instructors in to practice. We're all really looking forward to seeing him perform in this year's Formula BMW Asia.'
Team Meritus principal Peter Thompson also thinks highly of Jamison and was quick to back the youngster after he won one of the five scholarship places on offer.
'Ross used to come to the Karting Mall [at the old Kai Tak airport site] every Saturday and even in those early years he displayed a lot of talent,' recalls Thompson. 'He always had a passion for racing.
'We held the F1 Karting Championship in 2002 and Ross won it, even though he was competing against grown-ups. Ross has gone from strength to strength [He won the Asian Karting Open Championship and last year was named Asian International Karter of the Year].
'His target this year is to win the Rookie Cup. Hopefully, he will be even more competitive in next year's championship.
'The thing about Ross is that he's a very presentable young man who has a 100 per cent belief he will make it in life as a racing driver. His determination has led to the right people backing him. He's a fine gentleman.
'A lot of people race because of their egos. Ross doesn't have an ego. He's definitely stepping in the right direction. He's very mature for his age,' he said.
Jamison himself believes he's well on the road to becoming a fully fledged racing driver and, who knows, he might even go as far as Formula One - his ultimate dream.
'My career does look to be shaping up well, with the support from BMW and a new title sponsor. But being realistic, F1 is still a long way off and anything can happen in motorsport,' he said.
'Formula One is still my target and with continued support and development on my part, I believe it is an achievable goal.'