Teenaged driver Earl Bamber will be behind the wheel of the New Zealand car in the opening round of the A1 grand prix motor racing series next week.

The New Zealand team confirmed the driving arrangement today, after Bamber impressed during testing in England last week.

The 18-year-old is now set for his A1 debut in the first round of the 2008-09 championship at the Zandvoort circuit in the Netherlands on October 4-5.

The series features 10 rounds, including the New Zealand round at Taupo in January.

The New Zealand team’s first-choice driver Chris van der Drift was unavailable for the first round because of a scheduling conflict with the European Formula Master championship which he currently leads.

The choice came down to Jonny Reid, who piloted New Zealand to second overall in the previous two A1 grand prix series, and Bamber, the team’s rookie driver last year.

Reid is available if needed to drive for the team this season, but his focus is now on Indy Lights series in the United States, the stepping stone to IndyCars which compatriot Scott Dixon won for a second time this year.

The step up to the new Ferrari-power A1 race car is a big one for Bamber.

In just two years he has risen from winning the Asian Formula BMW championship as a 16-year-old, to now compete with the hopes of a nation on his shoulders.

Bamber is the third A1 driver to race for New Zealand, following Reid and Matt Halliday.

“I’m really excited to be racing for A1 Team New Zealand next weekend. It’s a huge honour to represent my country, especially as I’ve been selected to open the season for the team,” Bamber said.

Team owner Colin Giltrap said Bamber’s promotion was deserved.

“Earl did a great job for the team in testing so we’re happy to reward him with the race seat for Zandvoort.”