Can Artam become Turkey's first? 18 Aug 2005
This weekend's inaugural Turkish Grand Prix is set to draw tens of thousands of Turkish motorsport fans to see the first Formula One race to take place in their country. They will enjoy a brand new circuit, state of the art facilities and what looks set to be a fascinating contest on the track - the only thing they will be missing is a home star to cheer on.
This is where Can Artam hopes to come in - as arguably Turkey's strongest prospect for a future Formula One driver. The 24-year-old competes in the GP2 support series and has stated his ambition to graduate to Formula One. His original plans to put on a demonstration run for his home fans in a Formula One car ahead of this weekend's race have been dropped - Turkish Formula Renault star Jason Tahincioglu has picked up that honour with Jordan - but he is hoping to have a signed deal as a 2006 third driver for a team in place soon.
Artam's racing career progress has been solid rather than glittering so far. The Istanbul-born driver was a relatively late graduate into single-seaters, not moving up from amateur karting until 1999. Since then he's gone on to race in a variety of disciplines, including Formula Renault, British F3 and Formula 3000. This season he's added the close-fought GP2 Championship to the list, one of the acknowledged proving grounds for the next generation of Formula One drivers, but results have eluded him and he's currently 19th out of 24 Championship contenders, having scored just two points so far.
Artam's hope is to enter Formula One next year as a third driver - although on his form so far, that may well involve bringing a serious amount of sponsorship to whichever team took him on - Minardi and Jordan the most obvious candidates. He certainly doesn't lack confidence, saying that he's "decided to follow the advice of senior Formula One executives and do things properly rather than rushing into a demonstration that has no real value this year I have been improving my times and getting closer to the top."
As for the future, he's got no doubts where he'll end up: "I am a racer and like any other racer I want to compete in Formula One - not just act like a Formula One driver. There has been a lot of speculation as to when I will be completing this program and at the moment the contract is being signed. As soon as it is finalised we will make an official announcement. The only thing I can say now is that it will be a very competitive team."
There won't be a native driver at the inaugural Turkish Grand Prix - but if Can Artam has his way, there may just be one for next year's race fans to cheer on.