A PROMISING driver says his confidence has received a boost after his performances on track caught the attention of a British Touring Car Championship challenger.

Mark Wakefield has signed with Team HARD for the new season, when he hopes to be among the contenders to win the Volkswagen Racing Cup.

“It’s the right moment to make a move like this,” said the 20-year-old.

“They’ve wanted to get me behind the wheel of one of their cars for the past couple of years, so it’s been a possibility for a while.

“It’s a relief to get things sorted.

“More than that it’s a good feeling to know there are people out there that do watch what you’re doing, and take notice.”

It brings to an end a four-year stint in the MINI Challenge UK, in which he classified seventh in 2017.

Team HARD ended last season as champions after Bobby Thompson took overall honours in the VW Racing Cup behind the wheel of a Golf prepared by the Kent-based outfit.

They also run machines in the British touring car and GT Championship, in which they won the GT4-class teams’ title in 2016.

“Our aim is for Mark to do the same [as Bobby],” said Tony Gilham, the team’s principal.

“As a team we chase drivers we want to work with, and we feel he’s a perfect fit.

“What I like about him is his raw, natural ability. However he has the determination and ambition to go with it.

“We encourage drivers to plan ahead, and I’ve told him we’re looking at this as a two-year project.

“Mark will spend 2018 getting up to speed with the car and the team, while still trying to win of course, before becoming our number one contender next season.”

Wakefield has tested his new machine twice, first at Brands Hatch and then Rockingham.

He also spent two days with Team HARD at Croft working as an instructor to hopefuls for a scholarship offered by Gilham.

“I’ve been mega impressed with how things have progressed so far,” said the former Weaverham High School student.

“The pace is there already, and we only changed bits and bobs. That bodes well.”

The first round of this season’s campaign is at Silverstone over Easter.

A chance to race at Oulton Park, which is Wakefield’s home circuit, follows in August.