A LATE invitation to the world’s longest motor race led to victory for a fast-rising young star.

Ethan Hammerton, 17, had a call to join the Jason Kennedy Racing team to race in the 25-hour VW Fun Cup, held at Belgium’s legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuit, only a week before the event.

The Northallerton teenager competes in the Milltek Sport VW Cup Championship and it was a race against time to get his licence upgraded in time to enable him to race at Spa-Francorchamps.

“The timing was a bit tight and we got straight on to the Motor Sports Association to upgrade his licence to a National A," said his dad and mentor Paul Hammerton.

Ethan joined three fellow drivers Charlie Kennedy, David Drinkwater and Jack Lang to compete in the EV02 diesel category in a purpose-built 1.9-litre turbo diesel light-weight VW Beetle, each taking turns at one hour and 30 minute stints.

The car was very different to Ethan’s normal left-hand drive 270bhp Golf R which he drives in the VW Cup Championship. The Beetle had a central seating position and its engine and driving wheels at the rear – the opposite of Ethan’s Golf.

“Initially, I found the car a bit tricky to drive, but once I got past the differences I was on the pace in the first session,” said Ethan.

His team qualified in 85th overall place – and second in the EV02 diesel category. The race started at 4pm at the famous 4.352m Formula One circuit, with each of the drivers completing one hour, 30-minute stints.

“After the first stint we were in third place overall despite being in the slowest category car, and we actually led for a lap at the end of our second stint. Unfortunately, we had a problem starting the car after refuelling prior to the third session and the car had to be towed back to the garage. We dropped well down the order, but continued to push hard throughout the race and finally finished first in our class and 32nd overall – out of 109 starters,” said Ethan.

“Lack of sleep makes the race really challenging. It’s so hard to stay focused and be smooth and consistent lap after lap to ensure that you keep out of trouble and don’t damage the car over what is a really, really long race,” he added.

Ethan, who works at Northallerton-based construction company Walter Thompson, is seen as an emerging talent in the world of motorsport having narrowly missed out in two junior championships last season. He finished on the podium 21 times out of 26 starts, with race wins, lap records and fastest laps in both the Renault UK Clio Championship and the Junior Saloon Car Championship, finishing as vice champion.