Millions of television viewers were given an insight into how the Motor Sports Association is developing the sport in the UK during the BBC’s live coverage of the weekend’s European Grand Prix in Valencia.
In the latest in a series of films highlighting the route to Formula One via karting and junior single-seater formulae, multiple Grand Prix winner and BBC F1 commentator David Coulthard MBE went back to his racing roots by focusing the cameras on Formula Ford. Now celebrating 45 years, the British Formula Ford Championship has long been the established stepping-stone into single-seater racing as highlighted by the roster of its past champions which includes Ayrton Senna and Jenson Button.
Coulthard, who last raced a Formula Ford in 1989, took his chance to turn back the clock at Brands Hatch and report on one of the MSA Academy’s initiatives. He not only sampled the latest EcoBoost Formula Ford chassis introduced for this year’s series, but also experienced one of the MSA’s Performance Master Classes, a key component of the MSA Academy’s driver training modules set up to prepare those aged between eight and 24 years of age for the rigours of top level competition.
The MSA introduced the Performance Master Classes in 2010 to bring an introductory level of driver development and training to competitors aged 13-16 and their parents. Developed in conjunction with the Youth Sports Trust, with support from the Racing Steps Foundation, the Master Classes are delivered free of charge and cover topics including planning, nutrition, fitness, communication, sponsorship and technical understanding.
“Formula Ford has always been the ultimate proving ground for young drivers but it’s incredible how much this form of motor sport has moved on since I was competing in it back in 1989,” reported Coulthard. “I basically turned up with a mechanic, sponsor, car and went racing. Now these guys are getting a full briefing on how to interact with their team, how to work with their engineer, how to deal with the media… It’s very impressive.”
As well as attending the Master Class, Coulthard also interviewed various past and present Formula Ford drivers as well as Le Mans winner David Brabham who oversees many of these activities in his role as the MSA’s National Race Coach.
“It’s not just a case of turning up and driving fast anymore,” explained Brabham. “If you talk to any F1 team they are looking for a driver whose skill set is complete. The standard now is getting higher and higher – these guys need to be educated on how to look after themselves, how to get more out of their car and how to get more out of the team around them.”
Screened in the build up to qualifying in Valencia, it is hoped that the BBC coverage will inspire young Grand Prix viewers to take up motor racing at a junior level as well as putting the spotlight on the MSA’s investment in the future of UK motor sport.
“The MSA Academy is establishing an international reputation for its approach to talent development,” said Colin Hilton, MSA Chief Executive. “We are grateful to both the BBC and David Coulthard for shining a light on the MSA’s commitment to young drivers and their future success, which will help to shape the future growth of the sport.”