Disabled Driver Scholarship awarded for one year of funded Club racing
Loughborough Car Club and Motorsport UK came together to offer a fantastic opportunity for 12 disabled motorsport enthusiasts to get behind the wheel of a specially adapted road car and compete for a year of fully-funded Club motorsport.
Beating off competition from many other applicants, the selected 12 took to the Bicester Heritage track, located next to Motorsport UK’s HQ, on Saturday 29 April to experience a technical AutoSOLO course.
The scholarships were won by Chris Etches and Chris Neesam. The prize was particularly special for both men:
Chris Neesam said: “I raced motocross for 26 years until I got paralysed after an accident last year. I needed to do something to get back out and compete. That’s why I came down and it means everything to get the scholarship: it means loads, literally loads. Just from going racing every week to not being able to do anything and now to get this…it’s amazing. I’m looking forward to getting out and competing again, and enjoying it.”
Chris Etches had previously won a scholarship to compete in racing, however his racing was curtailed by an accident. “I was injured three years ago. Just before my accident I had been offered a scholarship to compete with an able-bodied group. I never thought I would get the opportunity to compete again. It’s made my day. But just as important has been seeing everyone else – seeing what’s going on for disabled people and that it’s possible for them to get back into motorsport and competitive sports. I am looking forward to giving it my best shot and learning about motorsport, what I can do and achieve – it’s going to be a good year!”
Participants came from across the UK, from Kent to Mansfield and from Oxford to Cambridge. Demonstrating that motorsport can appeal to everyone, they came from all professions, including a former Paratrooper and Team GB Paralympian ice hockey player! Last year’s winner, Morgan Ashford, was even on hand to show his 14-year-old sister, Madison, the ropes as she competed for the first time.
James Cameron, Chair of Motorsport UK Disabled Committee: “It is great to be able to help people enjoy the sport, however if you are disabled it is not so obvious how you can get involved. That is why initiatives such as this one set up by Loughborough Car Club are so important. They have been doing this event for such a long time, with such an amazing record of helping disabled people join the sport. Now with the support of Motorsport UK, it’s offering more and more people the opportunity to get involved. For those that do, it can create real lasting change to their own lives and to others as well. The social aspect is also huge; it’s a great opportunity for disabled people to speak together, meet other people within the community and hopefully create lifelong bonds.”
The two winners will now have the opportunity to compete in a series of AutoSOLO and Autotest events. Contested using road cars, competitors take on a simple track layout– usually on tarmac or grass areas such as car parks or smooth fields. It is an ideal first foray into motorsport for those who have never experienced the thrill of car control within a closed road environment.