Tom Ovenden will follow in the footsteps of the likes of Dominic Wheatley and Nelson King after confirmation that he will graduate into the JCW class of the Vertu MINI CHALLENGE this season.

Like the aforementioned pair, Ovenden will make the step as the reigning Cooper class champion on the back of a fine 2023 campaign that saw him score three wins  and eleven podiums in 20 starts en-route to a first circuit racing title.

That came on the back of a successful start to his racing career in rallycross, where he scored multiple titles before joining the MINI CHALLENGE family for the first time in 2021.

As has been the case during his three years in the Cooper class, Ovenden will be at the wheel of a car run by multiple champions EXCELR8 and will also act as an Academy Driver for the team’s British Touring Car Championship outfit as he looks to work his way up the motorsport ladder.

“Winning the Cooper class last season was fantastic for me, and a real reward for all the hard work and effort that went in across three years in the category,” he said. “Racing in such a competitive series allowed me to learn a huge amount, and I know I’m a much better driver now than I was when I made the switch from rallycross.

“The time is right to move on to the next level in my career, and stepping up into the JCW class is the logical move to make. It still doesn’t quite feel real, because I never imagined I would win the Cooper class when I moved over from rallycross, and to now be preparing to race a JCW is unbelievable.

“I know that the step up from the Cooper is a big one, but I feel confident of hitting the ground running when the season gets underway and fully intend to take this opportunity with both hands. To be one of EXCELR8’s Academy Drivers for the new season is also a huge honour, and I have to thank the team for putting their trust in me.

“Of course, I want to win races as that’s why I go racing, but as long as I can come away from every race this year knowing that I’ve done the best job possible, then I’ll be happy.”

Team owner Justina Williams said she was confident that Ovenden would be able to shine in the JCW machine.

“We have really enjoyed seeing Tom grow both as a driver and also as an impressive young man over the past three years, and to see him secure the Cooper title last year was a reward for all of the hard work he has put in alongside the team,” she said.

“To have him now preparing to move up into the JCW class in one of our cars is brilliant, and I have no doubt that he will be able to transfer all of the skills he had gained to this point into the new class and make an impression on track.

“He is also richly deserving of a place on our Development Driver programme and will hopefully benefit from the experience as his career continues to gather pace.”