Rising North Yorkshire motor racing star Nigel Moore is already being tipped as the next Lewis Hamilton. DAVE FLETT talks to the 17-year-old about his ground-breaking drive at the famous Le Mans endurance race.

DESPITE only passing his driving test earlier this year, Long Marston’s Nigel Moore has already been tipped to become the next Lewis Hamilton.

A fortnight ago, the 17-year-old prodigy also became the youngest-ever Brit to compete at Le Mans, where Formula 1 legend Nigel Mansell was among those ready to offer him advice.

The famous French track failed to further the fairytale when a spectacular engine fire forced Moore to retire the Team LNT Ginetta-Zytek just past the halfway stage of the 24-hour race.

But rather than being perturbed, the North Yorkshire starlet was left inspired by the magnitude of Le Mans, where 260,000 motor racing fanatics flock every year.

He said: “I’d been warned that Le Mans would be big, but I did not expect it to be so big – it was a totally different level. Even for the drivers’ parade, people were throwing gifts like beer mats and hats at us, which was an eye-opener.

“The size of the actual track and straight was also impressive, along with the barriers crowded with people. I enjoyed it all and would love to do it again.”

Moore shared driving duties with Lawrence Tomlinson and Richard Dean, who had won the GT2 class in Le Mans three years ago.

This time, they recruited Ginetta graduate Moore to compete in the prestigious LMP1 race, eventually won by Grand Prix trio David Brabham, Marc Gene and Alexander Wurz.

LNT were the ninth car to retire with 33 cars finishing out of a field of 55. Moore was at the wheel for his fifth 40-minute stint when their challenge went up in flames with the team placed 18th during an unlucky 13th hour.

About that experience, he said: “It was the first time I’ve ever been in a car on fire and the adrenalin was high. Your first thought is to get out as quickly as possible and I headed straight for the marshals.

“The track lay-out is quick and using the public roads is quite cool. The car had also been going really well – we did not have to push for our times, they were quite comfortable.

“It was always my dream to compete at Le Mans, but I didn’t expect to get the chance as quickly as I have done. That’s all thanks to Richard and Lawrence. It’s an achievement, considering my age and that I’m only in my third year of racing.

“I was just really disappointed because I wanted to finish and prove myself, but we still did really well and, hopefully, we will have another go at it next year.”

Despite only leaving Knares- borough’s King James School last year, Moore has already raced go-karts and sports cars in Australia, Italy, Belgium and France and tasted victory at all the famous home tracks, such as Silverstone, Brands Hatch and Donington.

Winning a BRDC Rising Stars driver training scholarship helped raise his profile at a young age, but it has been Moore’s performances on the track that have demanded attention.

He is currently leading the British GT Championship G4 class, along with Wakefield-based co-driver Jody Firth, while, last year, the Ginetta G50 Sports Car Championship title was secured with two races to go despite having to gain special permission from the FIA – world motorsport’s governing body – to compete at the age of 16.

In 2007, he had won the Ginetta Junior title, having competed in the European Junior Karting Championships at the age of 14. It is, therefore, little surprise that Motorsport News’ expert panel earmarked him as the driver most likely to follow in the tracks of Hamilton, prior to the reigning Formula 1 champion’s recent struggles.

Hamilton’s potential heir apparent added: “It’s really good to hear people talking about you in that way. It gives you hope.

“Lewis has done extremely well and took the sport by storm last year. He shocked everyone with how quick he was. The performances of Lewis and Jensen Button this season have been great for motor racing in this country. Jensen did not get the success straight off, but deserves credit for not deciding to pack in.

“He’s pushed and pushed and now he’s getting his rewards.”

Seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher is another role model for Moore, who has his sights set on a career in Grand Prix racing.

He said: “I definitely want to start getting into Formula 1 testing and driving in the full championship is something I’d love to do long term.”

Given that he has four younger siblings following closely in his slipstream, it is not too far-fetched a fantasy to suggest Moore’s family could match the Schumacher clan and provide two F1 winners. Nigel has been driving since the age of five at his father Simon’s Tockwith Motor Sports Centre, racing BMWs against sister Sarah and brother David.

Sarah, 15, is currently leading the Ginetta Junior Championship with 14-year-old David fifth in his class. Eight-year-old Eddie and Gemma, just four, are also showing great karting promise.

“I hope they will all be able to follow me and there’s no reason why not,” suggested Nigel. “They’ve all had the same upbringing.”

Input from the likes of 1992 world champion Mansell is also of obvious value. About his Le Mans chat with the great Brit, Moore added: “He gave me a bit of advice on down force and breaks and it was great to meet somebody like him, who’s been there and done it.”

In the meantime, Moore will continue to help build cars for the Garforth-based Ginetta company – a day job which he believes is enhancing his development as a driver. “It’s definitely a big advantage to know your way around a car and to learn how it comes together,” he pointed out.