A new motorsports academy has been announced that seeks to back promising youngsters from the age of eight with the aim of finding the top-flight drivers of the future.
And it includes elements that have already benefited young UK athletes including double Olympic gold-medallist Rebecca Adlington.
The academy is a creation of the Motor Sports Association (MSA), the organisation that regulates racing in the UK as the affiliated body of the FIA.
It is the brainchild of Robert Reid, the 2001 WRC champion, the MSA’s Performance Director and an ambassador for Go Motorsport, the body that aims to encourage participation at all levels of motorsport.
Reid has been working on the project for the last four years and says that it builds on an earlier scheme, known as Rally Elite, that has since been extended into racing: “When I first started the Rally Elite scheme with the MSA four years ago, it was the first time there had been such a project in the UK.
“This August we will recruit the first students onto the Advanced Apprenticeship in motor sport — one level below Elite — but it was always clear that each element needed to form part of a bigger joined-up picture.”
The MSA says that a joined-up scheme is now in place to help British youngsters aged eight to 16 who are participating in racing – and there are around MSA 1,600 licence-holders under 16. Candidates will be supported in their studies while still at school.
It is also considering the introduction of new regulations to make sure competitors pay due attention to their education, with the possible introduction of a signed contract to ensure they keep up to date with school work, as well as encouragement for organisers to provide study facilities for their competitors.
It says: “The message is simple: no education, no racing.”
- At 14, there will be the opportunity for some students to take a Young Apprenticeship in Sport — a sports-based qualification that counts as the equivalent of up to four GCSEs and offers a broad understanding of the world of sport and leisure.
- From 16, the Advanced Apprenticeship in Sporting Excellence (AASE) helps develop students as competitors while helping them gain transferrable qualifications. AASE is fully-funded by the UK government and is already active across a number of sports including football, rugby, tennis, golf, athletics and swimming. Double gold medal-winning swimmer Rebecca Adlington has benefited from the scheme.
- As competitors move towards the top of the Academy, they pass into existing Elite schemes designed to launch their careers as professional drivers and now includes FIA funding for young driver safety awareness.
- From Elite, the best candidates graduate into the post-Elite phase with a view to moving towards the international scene.
Reid added: “We see many competitors faced with a difficult career choice at this age. What the Academy does — and in particular the Advanced Apprenticeship — is to provide a safety net at every stage, so that if the anticipated professional career doesn’t take off for whatever reason, the athlete still has options and qualifications for the future.”
The MSA says it has looked carefully at other sports and has recognised the need to identify the best British talent as a team of individuals under a collective banner.
As a result, members of the MSA Academy at Elite and post-Elite levels will now become known as TEAM UK and will be able to use this designation to identify them as the best emerging talent in British motor sport.
The organisation says its ambition is to support the best drivers even further by creating a new revenue stream that will enable funding to be channelled towards those attaining post-Elite levels.
Reid continued: “We have always talked about funding. We know that it costs an awful lot to get to the very top of this sport and while the MSA is never going to be a position to invest that kind of money in an individual, there are some really interesting ideas that start to become possible once the funding starts to come in.
“However, you first have to have the structure in place in order to demonstrate the credibility required to secure the funding. We now have that.”
The MSA Academy will also include a recognised coaching structure in UK motor sport, although it says that this aspect may take a little longer to deliver.
Reid concluded by saying: “It’s been a bit tricky at times but I’m delighted that the structure and all the elements are now in place.
“I feel that the MSA Academy gives the UK a real opportunity to set the standards in terms of competitor development and will help to ensure that this country continues to be well represented at the highest level of world motor sport in the future.”
For more information about the MSA Motorsport Academy, contact the organisation here.