Motor racing: Barnsley’s James Dorlin joins McLaren Automotive as development driver

Barnsley race-ace James Dorlin, now a McLaren Automotive sportscar Development Driver, with last year's Renault Clio Cup car that took him to runners-up spot in the 2018 Renault UK Clio Cup Championship.
Barnsley race-ace James Dorlin, now a McLaren Automotive sportscar Development Driver, with last year's Renault Clio Cup car that took him to runners-up spot in the 2018 Renault UK Clio Cup Championship.

ames Dorlin had every reason to smile while at the Autosport International show as he no longer had to keep secret that his motor racing career is taking a massive leap forward.

“I am now a McLaren Automotive Development Driver!”, the Barnsley 19 year-old announced with pride.

The British sportscar manufacturer, McLaren Automotive – an off-shoot of the Formula 1 team that has a carbon fibre chassis fabrication facility at Rotherham’s Advanced Manufacturing Park - has designed theDevelopment Driver Programme, now in its second year, to develop future talent in GT racing.

One of three new drivers, all teenagers, Dorlin has been selected from 10 other potential candidates by McLaren for a programme conceived to give the drivers experience on and off the track with a view to developing the next generation of McLaren factory drivers.

McLaren Automotive CEO Mike Flewitt: “We welcome three bright talents to a Programme established to help gifted young drivers realise their motorsport ambitions, providing professional tuition and guidance to foster their racing talent into a potential GT Championship-winner at the wheel of a McLaren.   The drivers will receive performance assessments and evaluations throughout the season, running parallel with their race programme. They were selected for the programme having impressed us on the back of excellent results in their respective 2018 campaigns".

The aim is to build-up McLaren’s own GT racing department, joining an existing scheme member, they will team up in a pair of McLaren 570S GT4s in an as-yet-undefined race programme, and eventually help develop their new 720S GT3 car.

Dorlin, a British Racing Drivers Club Rising Star and the 2018 Renault Clio Cup UK runner-up taking six race wins and four pole positions, will receive assistance and guidance from McLaren which includes help in PR, marketing, sponsorship, fitness, nutrition, data telemetry and contract management.

He and the other three drivers will receive performance assessments and evaluations throughout the season, running parallel with their race programme, and the best one at the end of the year will become a full-time driver,joining the roster of McLaren Automotive’s present four factory drivers that already includes Chesterfield’s Ben Barnicoat who debuted the new 720S, in the Abu Dhabi Gulf 12 Hours race at the end of last year.

“I am now classed as a professional driver, although I will not really feel like I am until I am promoted – hopefully - at the end of the year.    It will be a different driving style to the Renault Clio, and there will be the pressure of a large manufacturer, but I am looking forward to it, hoping to impress them and remain with McLaren.

 “I am looking forward to an exciting year racing in which-ever GT Championship McLaren decides”, McLaren are yet to announce where he will being racing, but the British GT Championship would be a good starting point…

A product of Wath Comprehensive School - Dorlin started his motorsport career at the age of 10 years-old, karting at Wombwell (Yorkshire’s only kart track), living very near the circuit, it was perfect for their “dad and lad” outfit.

Karting for a total of three years, he was the 2012/13 South Yorkshire Cadet Champion, before moving into Junior Saloon cars racing a hatchback and competing on national circuits, against other 14-17 year-olds.

People were surprised how quickly he achieved success in circuit racing, being only a 14 year-old: in his first race at Croft, he came 2nd, taking eight further podiums throughout the year, Dorlin then won the Brands Hatch race, ending the year Championship runner-up.

Being coached by his father, also a racer, it was obvious that his son was a budding talent and destined for future success in motor racing.

The following year he won the Championship by registering eight race victories, five pole positions and a podium finish in all but three contests of the fourteen-race calendar.

For 2016 Dorlin took the Michelin Clio Cup Series by storm, sealing the title in his first full season in the category, a regular top-3 finisher with twelve podium visits, he took eight race victories, from eleven pole positions while setting six fastest laps.

In 2017 he moved up to the premier hot-hatch series, racing the latest generation of car in the Renault UK Clio Cup: Europe's most competitive single-make saloon car championship.

Once again Dorlin turned heads by setting the fastest lap in the opening round, claimed Pole Position for race 12, together with winning the 6th and 15th race.   He ended the season in a highly commendable 9th position in the points table.

With the bit firmly between his teeth in 2018, in his second year in the Renault Clio Cup UK Championship, Dorlin was a podium-finisher in nine out of the eighteen races, and six times as race winner.

Going into the last race of the season, he was one of the three title contenders, and Dorlin won the final race “I did everything I could” to leave Brands Hatch as the provisional 2018 Champion, but the glory of holding the crown lasted only 37 days.

That was until a successful appeal, by a driver excluded from the Silverstone round, led to the contentious decision to overturn the results, demoting Dorlin to Championship runner-up…

“Actually, losing the Clio Championship was not so disappointing as I was already aware of the potential McLaren deal”, Dorlin smiled, “anyway my CV now states ‘Runner-up/Vice-Champion in the 2018 Renault Clio Cup Championship!’”.