SCOTLAND has long had a history of world success in motorsport, and now the seeds are being sown to find, nurture and develop the next generation of stars.
A new campaign by the Scottish Motor Racing Club, called GoMotor Racing is backed by one of the country’s largest car dealership groups, the John Clark Motor Group.
It is aimed at maintaining Scotland’s strong position on the international motorsport stage, despite a continued lack of funding.
Funding, even at the highest level, Formula One, is in the headlines at the moment with Bathgate’s Paul Di Resta set to be eased out of his Sahara Force India seat for 2014 by Sergio Perez and his accompanying Mexican sponsorship cash.
This year marks 50 years since Borders driver Jim Clark won the first of his two F1 world titles, and 40 years since fellow Scot Jackie Stewart won the last of his three championships.
Duns’s Louise Aitken-Walker won the Ladies World Rally Championship in 1990, Colin McRae lifted the WRC crown in 1995 and Perth’s Robert Reid was co-driver to Richard Burns as they took the title in 2001. Bathgate’s Dario Franchitti has also won three Indy500s and four IndyCar titles in the States.
This year, Scotland gained another motorsport world champ, when three-times Le Mans 24-Hours winner Allan McNish won the FIA World Endurance Championship.
And McNish said: “It’s important we get off our backsides and take motorsport to the people, rather than waiting for them to come to the circuits.
“The GoMotor Racing campaign by the SMRC is all about letting people get up close to the cars they normally just see whizzing past them at circuits like Knockhill. My generation is now getting towards the end of their productive life, if you like, and it’s crucial now that we focus on creating and finding the next generation of Scottish motorsport stars,” added the 43-year-old from Dumfries.
“We need to find the next, younger generation. But it’s not only drivers, we also need the next generation of people who will breathe new life into Scottish motorsport right through the ranks. That includes the likes of marshals. Remember, without marshals, who volunteer their services, there would be no motor racing.”
John Clark – himself a former British Touring Car racer, and sponsor of the Ecurie Ecosse team – hosted two events recently at his dealerships in Aberdeen and Edinburgh. Not only were representatives from the various championships which are contested under the SMRC banner in attendance, but so too were a number of karting clubs, the entry-level for motorsport.
The John Clark group’s business development director, Chris Clark, said: “There was a whole cross-section of motorsport enthusiasts at both the GoMotor Racing nights.
“From the complete beginner, looking to take part in track days or start circuit racing, through to the karting competitor, wanting advice on how to get the most out of their motor racing, we had a fantastic variety of people and ages, down to as young as 11 years old.
“We want to see Scottish motorsport continue to develop and grow both in popularity and success.
“Supporting varied elements within the sport is a way to give something back. In addition, we’re keen to help develop current and future talent, as well as those who might just want to try something new.”
Among those at the GoMotor racing evenings were double BTCC champ John Cleland, Ecurie Ecosse driver Alisdair McCaig, McLaren Autosport Young Driver of the Year, Lewis Williamson, British GT champ Glynn Geddie, European Formula Renault champ Ryan Sharp and 14-year-old British Karting champ, Dean Macdonald.
The driving force behind GoMotor Racing is a husband and wife duo, SMRC stalwarts Graham and Heather Brunton.
The couple, who moved from Edinburgh to Carnock in Fife, simply to be closer to their motorsport business at Knockhill, have been instrumental in the campaign. “The initial idea came from Heather and I,” Brunton explained. “It was an open invitation not only to those already taking part in motorsport but, more importantly, to get new people along. This year we’ve seen bumper grids in all the SMRC championships, and they’re already looking even healthier for 2014.
“We took 14 different series race cars to each of the events. In doing that, our primary aim was to show there is a natural career progression available in Scotland, from karting right up to the very highest levels of motorsport.”
The significance of close-up access to race cars was summed up by McNish. “I remember as a boy having my photograph taken standing beside a racing car,” he said. “That’s one of the things that fuelled my desire to become a racing driver.”