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JAMIE GRADUATES TO GRM V8 SQUAD

Teenage Formula Ford champion Jamie Whincup has signed a multi-year deal to drive for Garry Rogers Motorsport.

The 19-year-old joins Garth Tander in Rogers' 2003 Commodore line-up, replacing Jason Bargwanna who defected to Mark Larkham's Ford-powered team.

Whincup was selected ahead of more experienced drivers, believed to include Paul Radisich.

He'll be the youngest fulltime competitor on the circuit this year.

But after nurturing 30-year-old Bargwanna from V8 Supercar infancy, Rogers, a patient supporter of racing's youth, convinced the team's backers it was time to start afresh.

"We are very pleased to have signed Jamie to a long-term arrangement with our team," he said.

"After a lot of consideration of all of the options available, I am sure that the decision to go with Jamie will prove to be a very worthwhile relationship for the GRM team and all its sponsors whilst also creating further opportunity for yet another Australian young driver."

Melbourne-based Whincup's meteoric rise began with Formula Ford's Rookie of the Year title in 2001, returning last year to secure the championship from Mark Winterbottom in a Rogers-prepared Van Diemen.

He made his V8 Supercar debut in last year's endurance races, driving with Max Dumesny and Mark Noske at the Queensland 500 and Bathurst 1000 respectively.

"He has shown in the Formula Ford series that he can drive very fast and has a natural ability to drive hard and close without regularly tearing the corners off his cars," Rogers said.

"He is a mature driver for his age and after limited opportunities with us in last year's endurance races he displayed enough to suggest he will adapt well to a career in V8 Supercars."

Whincup has realistic goals for his first season on the circuit, just pleased to be given the opportunity to prove himself.

"It's always been an ambition of mine to race in V8 Supercars and the opportunities are limited," he said.

"I'm rapt that Garry has shown this confidence in me and I will certainly be making the most of it.

"I'm a realistic person and will be using 2003 to learn the tracks, the cars, the category and do all I can to get some scores on the board."

--V8 WIRE (Jason Whittaker)

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