How to get youngsters interested and then involved is one of many challenges motorsport faces today. So an initiative to attract young drivers into events in the most affordable and accessible way is to be applauded, and it looks like the new Shelsley Walsh Young Drivers Championship has already hit its target.
Autocar has given its backing to a series designed to attract youngsters in the cheapest possible way, using standard 1.2-litre Vauxhall Corsas. The championship has now signed up nine drivers aged between 17 and 21, all eager to make their competition debuts.
It’s run by the Midland Automobile Club (MAC), organiser of the famous Shelsley Walsh hillclimb, and has a social angle in offering youngsters an outlet for their need for speed in a safe and controlled environment rather than on the road. Significantly, that element of the package has earned it the support of the West Mercia Constabulary.
To be eligible, drivers must hold a full driving licence but not have previously had a competition licence. The post-2000 Corsas have a maximum price of £3000, including the required safety gear, and no modifications are allowed.
The changes needed to enter a speed event are very limited; probably the most involved is just fitting a vertical timing strut to the front of the car.
After the opening round, sensibly held on the wide open spaces of the Curborough sprint course, the remaining five rounds will be held at the Shelsley Walsh hillclimb in through the late summer.
Financial support will reduce the cost of getting started and entering events and deals on safety equipment mean that a full set of overalls and helmet come in at less than £300.
Importantly, when demand often exceeds opportunity for hillclimbs, drivers are assured an entry for each of the rounds, and they even pay a reduced entry fee. Membership of the MAC is available at a reduced rate of £25 and end of season prize money for the top three will be £500, £200 and £100.
All of the participants will get support and mentoring across the season, and all involved hope some of the graduates will progress up the sporting ladder in future years. Clearly, some inspiration has been taken from the Caterham Academy, which introduces 50 new drivers every year in a supportive and nurturing environment.