If petrol doesn’t run through the veins of your family, getting involved in Motorsport can be difficult. You might not know how the sport works, or who to contact to get your foot on the ladder. This was something Garry Bradley wanted to change when Wexford Motor Club set up their Youth Academy.
Normally a term reserved for soccer clubs that nurture elite talent to graduate to the senior squad, Wexford Motor Club have the aim of educating local children who want to be involved in the sport but might not have known how.
Garry said they knew what they wanted to achieve, but admitted that it was a learning curve for him as much as the children. “We had a start line and a finish line of where we wanted to take it, but the road in the middle was undecided. We wanted to teach them all about finance and team building and I had to figure how you teach that.”
“While we might create the next Ayrton Senna or Craig Breen, we are also trying to develop the next head of development. We do teach them about racing but also teach them the importance of a good manager and a service crew.”
Some of the class activities have been about changing a wheel and trusting pace notes. “We had a pit stop challenge, were we taught them about changing wheels and torquing wheel nuts, and then we timed them to do change a wheel on an autocross buggy.”
“For another class their homework was to learn how to read pace notes, and the importance of them. Then in the class we made a course and blindfolded the “driver” and the “co-driver” walked behind him telling him where to go. We had cameras on their heads and they were walking into walls but they were learning too.”
Garry gets help from his friend Johnny Looby from UAV Media to create lesson plans and ideas for the classes. “Johnny has no Motorsport background so I sit down with him to go through the lesson plan and have it at a level everyone would understand. I wanted to teach weight transfer and how back-wheel drive and front-wheel drive cars handle, and Johnny just said “what’s an apex”. Some things are only simple if you know it.”
“What I thought was common sense, I was able to bring it back. Johnny’s learning curve was able to set the precedent for the classes and lesson plans. There were things like Parc Ferme that I just assumed everyone knew because I did, so the lessons teach the kids from the ground up.”
The Academy is very inclusive. Garry said there are only a few restrictions to get involved. “To take part, the kids just have to be from age 10 to 16, so everyone can drive a kart straight away, and they cannot have held a Motorsport Ireland licence before. These classes aren’t for children who’ve done it before, it’s for the ones who haven’t but want to.”
The classes aren’t solely about competition, but at the end of the year the top ranked driver gets a works drive with CRG for a Karting race, and they are also working on promoting Rallycross as a discipline for younger drivers. When talking with Art McCarrick about what is available for Youth Acadamy drivers, they discovered that kids as young as 14 can compete in Rallycross.
While only in its second year, there has already been a positive outcome of the classes. Garry told me that Jack Byrne, winner of the paid drive last year has built his own Rallycross car that he plans to use this season in Mondello Park, a testament to the impact the Academy had.
Garry says that leading the classes is intense and that he could spend a month creating a plan for the following lesson but he is hopeful that the idea could catch on and other motor clubs would host a similar form of lessons. “We’ve had no contact from any other clubs, but If you could have a couple doing this you could have a league or learn from each other. Then the future of Irish Motorsport would be very bright.”