Loughborough Car Club names Smith and Ashford as Disabled Driver Scholarship winners

Saturday 21 May 2022

Dave Smith and Morgan Ashford have been named as recipients of the Loughborough Car Club’s annual Disabled Driver Scholarship at Motorsport UK’s headquarters in Bicester Heritage.

The pair were chosen from nine competitors after a selection event comprising four sets of three runs around a tarmac AutoSOLO course in a 1400cc Nissan Micra, plus an informal interview. Judges looked at a drivers’ potential development and likelihood to remain within the sport, as well as outright speed.

Their prize includes entry fees, use of the Nissan Micra, all maintenance work, fuel, and tyres to a combined 11 AutoSOLO and Autotest events over the next year. Seven of those events will take place on grass, with the other four on tarmac.

“I’m just gobsmacked, really. Over the moon,” said an ecstatic Smith after being unveiled as one of the recipients. “I didn’t know what to expect, I thought ‘I’ll just go along and see what happens’. On a couple of [runs], I couldn’t stop laughing, it was great.

“I’m a steady driver, really. Going through the cones, it’s totally alien to what I’m used to driving like. And I got faster and faster, and just enjoyed it more and more. For a car this size, to get that performance is really remarkable. I can’t wait to see what we can do.”

“I’m lost for words, I’m just shocked that I managed to get picked, to be honest with you!” said Ashford. “There were some amazing people out there today. I can’t wait to be a part of Loughborough Car Club and to compete in the future.”

The aim of the event, now in its twelfth iteration, is to raise awareness of motorsport as an accessible sport, and to demonstrate how disabilities are no barrier to participation. Previous recipients include Alex Tait, now a professional driver and coach with numerous championship titles to his name.

For Loughborough Car Club Competitions Secretary, Richard Egger, the event is not only hugely successful in terms of raising awareness of accessibility in motorsport, but also a chance for someone to emulate the fond memories he has accrued over 60 years within the sport.

“Today has been a barrel of fun, with a whole load of nice people,” smiled Egger. “I think some of them will come into motorsport and stick. We’ve got two nice candidates that I look forward to running for the year. And I think the rest will go away and think ‘maybe I can do that myself’. So, positive.”

“I’ve been in motorsport since 1969. I’ve met some fabulous people. I’ve had a blast. And I really would like other people to have the same laughs and have as much fun as I have.”

Both James Cameron, Chair of Motorsport UK’s Disability & Accessibility Committee and Nathalie McGloin, President of the FIA Disability & Accessibility Commission, were also on hand to speak to competitors and enjoy the action and highlighted the significance of initiatives such as this to raise awareness of accessible competition within motorsport.

“A huge congratulations to all at Loughborough Car Club for putting on this fantastic event,” said Cameron. “Motorsport UK is very proud to have played a supporting role in delivering this year’s Disabled Driver Scholarship. It’s crucial we continue to drive awareness and demonstrate that disability is no barrier to competition within the sport.”

“I think the main thing is the smiles on people’s faces getting out of the car,” added McGloin. “I think motorsport like Autosolo is so under the radar, unless you’re involved in motorsport, you don’t actually know this is a thing.

“And to come to an event and say ‘I can do this in my road car, I don’t need any other equipment. I can just come, compete on the day and be part of motorsport’. I think that’s really important.

“This has been running for twelve years, it’s one individual car club, there’s no reason why we can’t get this in all four corners of the country and service a much larger disabled community.”