|"There is ever increasing competition for the attention of young people," says Stoker. "If motor sport doesn`t catch their interest when they`re young, it`s unlikely that we`ll be able to get them later on. There are many ways of getting involved in motor sport that are not governed by age or financial restrictions and these are the areas we want to highlight to people."
For circuit racing, drivers can start competing in karts from eight years of age, T-cars from 14 and single seaters from 16 (now 15 for certain series). Trial drivers can start at 15, Minicross drivers at 14 and Production Car Autotest drivers also at 14, while their passengers can be as young as 12 in some cases.
Rally driving, on the other hand, has little flexibility regarding age limits as all drivers are required to hold a valid Road Traffic Licence, the minimum age for which in the UK is 17. Overcoming this hurdle would be extremely difficult as most rally stages within the UK have some form of public exposure, such as crossing footpaths (even though temporarily closed during any event), which require any driver to hold a valid RTL.
This does not preclude 12 year olds competing as navigators on Road and Navigation Rallies, though this rises to 16 for Stage Rally navigators. Young competitors driving, particularly in autotests, teaches excellent vehicle control, which is a wonderful prelude to stage rally driving as well as being really good fun.
However, this new initiative is aimed at drawing attention to the huge number of opportunities for young people to become involved in motor sport, not just through competition, for example rally schools, volunteer officials and marshalling.
MSA-accredited BARS rally schools now offer recognised familiarisation courses and lessons from qualified instructors at safe and secure venues. The recently launched Nicky Grist Academy that uses two-seater buggies, together with other similar ventures, gives youngsters from 12 years of age the chance to learn to drive and control a car.
Of course, motor sport itself cannot take place without the huge army of volunteer officials, from track marshals to timekeepers, scrutineers to spectator marshals. Experience gained by under 16s through being involved with club events as volunteer officials may also assist their passage to becoming future registered or licensed officials.
"It`s not just about driving," confirms John Richardson, Chairman of the MSA`s Rallies Committee. "We need to show young people that they don`t have to be behind the wheel to have a great time with motor sport. It is a fantastic way to get involved with the sport and, if and when they do start driving competitively, they will have a much better knowledge of the sport which can only help their progress. We are always looking for new people and guarantee a warm welcome for everyone who joins us."