A MAN from Chester has been part of a special event to launch the UK’s first racing academy for disabled drivers.

On Wednesday 27th February, racing driver Nicolas Hamilton – brother of five-time F1 world champion Lewis – joined Team BRIT at its base in Dunsfold, Surrey, to launch the academy, which will offer the estimated two million disabled drivers in the UK a completely new opportunity.

Any disabled driver with a full UK licence can now have the chance to receive race coaching, mentoring and tuition.

The academy will give drivers access to the team’s world-leading hand controls, which use fly-by-wire technology to provide electronic acceleration and braking from a steering wheel that can be adapted to different physical disabilities.

Rob Skupski, from Chester, is a rookie driver for the team, which is aiming to become the first ever all-disabled team to race in the Le Mans 24 Hour race.

Its drivers are working their way up the motorsport ladder, currently competing in the BMW 116 Trophy and the Britcar Championship. Rob will be driving the BMW this year.

The new academy, supported by Brit Insurance, will allow even more disabled people the chance to access motorsport at entry level, with the opportunity to undertake their race licence test.

Some of Team BRIT’s drivers are part of the academy’s coaching team and have worked their way up from rookie driving in kart racing. Many of the drivers are injured military troops and have used motorsport as part of their rehabilitation and recovery.

Rob, who is an electrician by trade, was riding his motorbike in Llangernyw in 2015 when he was struck by a van. Rob was thrown from his motorbike, causing serious injuries including the dislocation of his L1 and L2 vertebrae, damaging his spinal cord and causing paraplegia. He spent four months in hospital before rebuilding his life as a wheelchair user.

Last week, Nicolas Hamilton showed his support of the project by demonstrating the team’s cars and hand controls to guests at a launch event.

Nicolas has cerebral palsy and was the first disabled driver to race in the British Touring Car Championship.

He has recently announced he will return to the championship this year, racing a specially modified Ford Focus RS.

Nicolas said: “I’m really pleased to be able to support the launch of Team BRIT’s Race Academy. I’m all about championing disability in motorsport, having been working at establishing myself in the sport since 2011.

“Disabled people are used to being told what they can’t do. I’m all about proving what’s possible, and I’ve learnt that sharing my story inspires others, which can only be positive.

“Team BRIT is inspiring others in the same way, and now, the academy will open doors people haven’t had access to before, providing the same chances that able-bodied drivers have.

“This is a huge step forward in motorsport and something I’m proud to support.”

Rob said: “Joining the team at this amazing time when the academy is launched has been just fantastic.

“Not only am I excited to get out on track and build my confidence as a racer, I’m very proud to be part of a project that will help inspire and encourage other disabled people to try a sport that they may never have thought would be open to them.”

Team BRIT featured on BBC Top Gear's Extra Gear programme last Sunday, having competed in the same six-hour endurance race as Team Top Gear at Silverstone.

Presenter Rory Reid interviewed the team about their plans, while co-presenter Chris Harris got to grips with the adapted hand controls during a lap of the Top Gear Test Track.

  • Information on Team BRIT is available at www.teambrit.co.uk.