COTSWOLD racing driver Alice Powell from near Chipping Norton has made it through to phase two of the Power2Podium nationwide search for Winter Olympic skeleton champions of the future.

Frustrated by budgetary issues which are limiting racing opportunities in her chosen sport, Powell – a 21-year-old former Cotswold School pupil – is contemplating a U-turn having been inspired by Lizzy Yarnold’s gold medal-winning exploits in the skeleton bob at the recent Sochi Winter Olympics.

Yarnold was one of around 1,000 athletes who signed up to a similar campaign, Girls4Gold back in 2008, and became an Olympic champion just five years after trying the thrilling winter sport for the first time.

The Girls4Gold tag line was – ‘Wanted: Fast, fearless females’.

Powell, the Formula Renault British Automobile Racing Club (BARC) title winner in 2010 and a regular podium finisher in various championships ever since, certainly ticks all those boxes.

And she continues to be successful on the track – when given the chance.

“I was inspired watching Lizzy Yarnold’s success at the Winter Olympics and I got in touch with UK Sport,” said Alice, who is no mean hockey player either when she turns out for her local Bourton and Sherborne Club.

“I went for trials at Loughborough University, and I believe I was one of around 660 girls tested.

So I was delighted and surprised to find out last Friday that I had made it through to the second phase of the talent search. I think I am down to the last 80 or so.

“We will see where it leads, although racing in Formula One remains my number one ambition.”

Powell showed she had lost none of the touch in her principal sport when making a surprise weekend return to the F3 Cup Championship, the competitive single-seater series in which she had finished runner-up last season.

Racing at the Rockingham circuit in Northamptonshire, she won both her races for Gale Force Racing.

“That was just a last-minute thing, which is often the case with me," said Alice. "It was a one-off deal, but I really enjoyed it.

“I was not expecting to get on pole and I was delighted that qualifying took place in the wet because I was driving a heavier car which gave me an advantage in those conditions.

“I led all the way in both races, although Toby Sowery made it hard for me as he was on my tail all the way.

“I was the slower of the two cars on the straights so I had to defend really hard and it was very satisfying to hang on and get a couple of wins.

“But I have already missed two of the rounds and it would be impossible to win that championship now.”

Powell had started the 2014 season with high hopes in the more challenging British F3 Championship and finished third in an early race at Rockingham before budgetary issues forced her to miss the next round at Silverstone. She still hopes to be on the grid at Snetterton on June 21.

Meanwhile, though, she was happy to accept an invitation to race in Malaysia recently in the Formula Renault Asia series.

She was the only Brit competing – and the only girl – but she gained a second place and two thirds in her class, and hopes to complete the last four races of the championship which are now all due to take place on the Chinese circuits of Zhuhai and Shanghai.