A North East karting champ is moving closer towards his goal of joining motor racing heroes like Lewis Hamilton on the Formula 1 grid.

Young Newcastle-born Joseph Taylor is the first driver to be signed to the Manor Official Driver Programme. Joseph, 12, from Ryton, hopes the experience will take him closer to achieving his F1 dream.

Manor is racing in the 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship and the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans under the new Chinese banner of CEFC Manor TRS Racing. The racing team, which includes two ex-F1 drivers, Vitaly Petrov and Jean-Eric Vergne, will race with two ORECA 07 Gibsons in the 2017 Championship.

Graeme Lowdon, who lives in Corbridge, Northumberland, and is President and Sporting Director of Manor, explained that the Manor Official Driver Programme is a new way to guide young, talented drivers through a difficult business, providing them with a route map to better understand and cope in a tough environment. During 2017 Joseph will receive guidance and assistance on developing his driving career and gain access to the Manor team and the environment at some endurance races.

“A big part of the Manor programme is spotting talent at an early age, that is something we think is really important. Motor sport is such a difficult business,” he said.

Graeme, who worked in F1 for six years, added: “We have chosen Joseph to join the Manor Official Driver Programme because it’s clear he can drive, you can see that from his karting results.

“What’s more impressive is how Joseph applies himself to the task. Manor has worked with some exceptional drivers over the years and there are certain qualities that all these drivers have in common and Joseph has many of those qualities.”

Joseph said: “To be chosen for the Manor Official Driver Programme is a very big thing; it’s a real privilege and huge step forward for me because it could be the start of a big career. I’ll grasp this opportunity and make the most of it.

“I am really excited to be working with the same people who have worked with Lewis Hamilton and other F1 drivers in the past. It gives me the confidence to show I could do as well as them.”

Joseph was introduced to the Manor team and watched their performance at Silverstone over the Easter weekend for the 6 Hours of Silverstone endurance race.

Coinciding with the national recognition from Manor, Joseph is one of two UK representatives nominated by the Motor Sports Association to take part in this year’s CIK-FIA Karting Academy Trophy series, which will see him racing in Finland, Belgium and France.

Joseph’s mother Lianne Taylor said: “Joseph continues to work really hard at his racing. It’s great when a world class racing team like Manor notice his achievements and recognise the potential he has. The exposure Joseph will get to motor sport and drivers at the highest level can only help him in his dream to become an F1 driver.”

Last year Joseph met Lewis Hamilton to be officially recognised for winning the 2015 Formula Kart Stars – Cadet series. Lewis won the same championship in karting as Joseph back in 1995, and at the same age, 10. Lewis went on, breaking many milestones, to become one of the youngest F1 champions at the age of 23.

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