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How the Dragon Sport Scholarship winner is chosen

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The trail to forging a profession in motorsport is a troublesome one for aspiring drivers and, even for these with luggage of expertise, it will possibly all depend for nothing with out the mandatory budgets or the correct alternatives on the proper time.

For this reason scholarships, notably on the nationwide scene, could be such an essential a part of a younger driver’s profession, and one that may provide an important enhance as they give the impression of being to climb the ranks.
Championships corresponding to Ginetta Junior and Junior Saloon Automobiles have established, well-respected scholarships that appeal to plenty of hopefuls, however a comparatively new enterprise that’s hoping to turn out to be a mainstay was held for less than the second time final month. The Dragon Sport Scholarship is the creation of Rhys Lloyd, the 2008 Welsh Sports activities and Saloon Automotive champion and a driver with years of expertise in classes corresponding to TCR and the Creventic 24 Hour sequence. The 38-year-old Welshman gained the Britcar Trophy final season, after creating the scholarship to discover a driver to race alongside.

The inaugural prize went to Jack Meakin, who made the many of the alternative (see beneath), and the identical prize has been put ahead for this season. In addition to a completely funded drive alongside Lloyd in a Dragon Sport-run Renault Clio within the Britcar Trophy, a take a look at day in a TCR automotive plus an outing within the Spanish Endurance Sequence at Barcelona are additionally up for grabs.

“I feel numerous it’s down to non-public frustrations,” Lloyd responds when requested why he’s placing his personal cash into the scholarship. “I gained the Welsh saloon championship and some different issues in 2008 and it was a really completely different scenario to the place I’m now. I hoped to make the step up into different sequence and I simply felt like my racing got here to a cease in 2009, fairly abruptly due to funding.

“I had a little bit of a hiatus for seven or eight years, and I’ve nonetheless received a little bit of a foul feeling about it and the way there wasn’t that probability to make the step up and do the rest, so it type of stems from that. It’s not the world’s greatest prize, however clearly it’s nonetheless a good chunk and it’s giving one thing again.”

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Autosport was given the chance to participate within the scholarship at Blyton Park to search out out what went into the method of discovering the 2024 winner. One factor instantly obvious at sign-on is that almost all hopefuls are there with their dad and mom, whereas my ever-increasing variety of gray hairs makes it clear that I’m in the direction of the higher finish of the age restrict of 30 (and really a bit above!).

Lloyd (centre) needs to offer one thing again to the game by the scholarship

Photograph by: Robert Borowik Media

“I’d say for those who averaged our age this 12 months it will most likely have been six or seven years youthful than final 12 months,” says Lloyd. “Final 12 months I’d have stated we had, not older drivers, however most likely late twenties, early thirties, whereas now, with what occurred with Jack final 12 months, it appears to be a bit extra of a go-to scholarship, and endurance is extra of a viable route I feel.”

After a brief briefing, the 32 members are cut up into three teams to rotate across the completely different classes, which embody media/sim, health and on-track driving. The media session is headed by seasoned motorsport commentator Richard John Neil and Lloyd’s fiancee Carys Davies. “What are you aware concerning the historical past of Dragon Sport?” asks Neil. As yet another used to asking the questions, I’m momentarily caught out, finally rambling concerning the crew’s success in Britcar and the way it’s offering drivers with a pivotal step up. The remainder of the dialogue centres on my racing plans for the 12 months and the final significance of such scholarship schemes, however by the tip of the questioning it’s clear that my interviewers are conscious of my true objective for participating. Regardless, going by the identical course of as different candidates gives an perception into what they face and what the judges are searching for.

With no ABS fitted to the Clios, drivers are warned will probably be straightforward to lock up, and that’s what occurs approaching the quick left-hander of Bishops. Alongside me, driver coach Alex Nevill requires me to elevate off the brake, whereas my mind tells me the alternative

“Clearly anybody that wins the scholarship is representing Dragon Sport, in order that they want to have the ability to signify them effectively,” factors out 2019 Renault UK Clio Cup runner-up Max Coates, scholarship organiser and one of many day’s driver coaches.

Transferring throughout to the simulator, operated by SimDynamics, members are given the possibility to drive a Clio – the identical automotive that’s getting used on the day and for the upcoming season – round Manufacturers Hatch. Two years of working on the iRacing software program lastly pays off. I’m setting respectable occasions among the many candidates and definitely not out of my depth.

Nevertheless it doesn’t final lengthy because the health take a look at proves to be essentially the most difficult side. Headed by teacher Claire Johnson from The Bare Warrior, we’re put by our paces with squats, burpees, push-ups and dash drills, that are adopted by hand-eye coordination workouts with tennis balls. For this I’m paired with GB4 race winner Lucas Romanek, his presence right here exhibiting how interesting the chance provided by Lloyd and his Dragon Sport crew is to a variety of drivers. We’re additionally scored on our hand-grip power and put by a response take a look at, which salvages a few of my delight battered by comparability to the youthful and more healthy members.

Fitness tests prove to be a gruelling part of the day

Health exams show to be a gruelling a part of the day

Photograph by: Robert Borowik Media

Coates factors out that the health take a look at is just not merely about searching for the strongest candidates – though that’s an essential issue, particularly for the self-discipline of endurance racing, with extended durations spent within the cockpit and quick driver adjustments crucial. It’s additionally a sign of somebody’s perseverance and dedication to push on by to finish the workouts. It’s good to know that by the tip I’m not the one particular person in my session to be affected by wobbly legs and aches that, not less than in my case, lasted for days!

After the lunch break it’s time for the principle factor of the day, the on-track driving, which within the system of scoring accounts for 60% (the remaining 40% is cut up between health and media). The primary session is as a lot about studying which approach the monitor goes as the rest, having by no means been to Blyton earlier than and, as I begin to construct up confidence within the automotive, it’s a job to handle the wheelspin on the moist monitor whereas I speed up up the gears and discover the restrict of the braking.

With no ABS fitted to the Clios, drivers are warned that will probably be straightforward to lock up, and that’s what occurs approaching the quick left-hander of Bishops. Alongside me, driver coach Alex Nevill requires me to elevate off the brake, whereas my mind tells me the alternative earlier than we harmlessly slide vast into the run-off space earlier than rejoining.

After a number of extra laps we’re again within the meeting space, and Nevill runs by what I can enhance on for my second run, notably wanting forward by a flip to the subsequent approaching nook somewhat than what’s occurring instantly in entrance of me.

Quickly I’m again out with Coates on a barely drier monitor and at a vastly elevated tempo. I discover we’re getting on the throttle a lot earlier, though the front-wheel-drive automotive is susceptible to understeering by the gradual chicane on the infield.

Maybe inevitably, I overstep the mark and spin by the short left at Bunga Bunga earlier than coming to a cease within the run-off. I’m actually not the one driver to finish up off the monitor through the day’s working, with Coates suggesting “there’s sufficient energy there to get it mistaken, and likewise it means they’re naturally a tougher automotive to drive [than a junior car], and a few individuals adapt to that in a short time and others don’t.”

Mackley and other competitors are given plenty of advice on the day

Mackley and different opponents are given loads of recommendation on the day

Photograph by: Robert Borowik Media

What turns into clear through the day is that, though just one particular person could be given the highest prize, all members are handled as people and given applicable suggestions – an essential factor when every has paid £500 to be there. “Anyone who has entered a scholarship has put an honest chunk of cash down to return and do it, so that you’ve received to make sure that all people coming away from it has had a Positive expertise and discovered one thing,” provides Coates.

It’s left to the judges to select six drivers who will advance and, whereas three are clear within the scoring, placings from fourth right down to twelfth are coated by solely a handful of factors.

After yet another run, six turn out to be three – Matt Hyde, Jack James and Harri Reynolds – with every attributable to do one last shootout with Lloyd alongside to determine the winner. However the fading gentle and strict 5pm curfew means Reynolds is unable to get out to do his last run, prompting an advert hoc choice by the judges that reveals how a lot they worth a good and knowledgeable choice.

“It was a horrible feeling as a result of I knew I might do an excellent job, after which to know that I couldn’t present what I might do, it was irritating,” says Reynolds. “Then we got the chance to go once more at Manufacturers Hatch and that picked up my spirits as a result of I assumed that may go well with me greater than only a shootout.”

“The scholarships give such an excellent alternative for anybody to essentially present what they will do” Harri Reynolds

All three had been taken to Manufacturers for an additional day of working, Lloyd admitting it offered a way more intensive evaluation of every driver than the preliminary last shootout would have carried out. “The second day undoubtedly had a special really feel and it was actually good as a result of we had much more time to judge extra completely,” says Lloyd. “I’d say everybody had three or 4 good runs. They’d loads of monitor time and it was actually attention-grabbing.”

After race and qualifying runs, Reynolds was declared the winner, whereas Hyde and James are set to have additional monitor time with Dragon Sport through the season. After ending second on the Mini Problem scholarship simply the week earlier than, and slicing brief his GB4 marketing campaign attributable to an absence of funds in 2023, Reynolds can have the right platform to showcase his skills this time period due to the Dragon Sport Scholarship.

“The scholarships give such an excellent alternative for anybody to essentially present what they will do,” says Reynolds. “To win it, clearly you’ve received to have some expertise. It’s actually essential, particularly for me the place finances is the place we battle quite a bit. However now I’ve an opportunity to have the ability to present it.”

How profitable the Dragon Sport Scholarship helped Meakin

Meakin and Lloyd took Britcar Trophy crown last year

Meakin and Lloyd took Britcar Trophy crown final 12 months

Photograph by: Steve Jones

“I used to be anticipating the season to go effectively, but it surely went very well.” The winner of the inaugural Dragon Sport Scholarship, Jack Meakin, made the many of the alternative final time period as he and Rhys Lloyd claimed the general Britcar Trophy.

Meakin had competed in a number of rounds of the championship in 2022, after solely shifting into automotive racing in 2021 with chosen rounds of the Junior Saloon Automotive Championship. That lack of expertise didn’t hinder him, both in his efforts to win the scholarship or in his season with Dragon Sport, during which he and Lloyd additionally got here out on high of the aggressive one-make class. “It shocked me that we had been capable of win general as a result of we had been within the tightest class, in order that’s actually a testomony to how the crew as a complete carried out over the season,” he says.

Being comparatively new to endurance racing, the 19-year-old claims he discovered a lot from Lloyd throughout their marketing campaign, whereas in return Meakin was capable of deliver outright pace to their Renault Clio. “I’d say he taught me quite a bit concerning the technique facet of endurance racing and simply enthusiastic about the larger image,” says Meakin. “I really feel like I might deliver some pace to the equation, and he can deliver the expertise and the mindset, which was good. I discovered masses racing with Rhys.”

Meakin’s focus this 12 months is on gaining additional expertise in different championships, corresponding to competing within the Citroen C1 24 Hours to achieve data of racing at the hours of darkness in addition to outings overseas, presumably on the Nurburgring Nordschleife.

These alternatives might be with Dragon Sport, the crew eager to additional develop the Motorsport UK Academy driver past 2023, with Meakin himself stating it’s “like one massive household and everybody needs to assist”.

“To have Rhys’s assist now, that’s actually the important thing,” provides Meakin. “With me profitable the Dragon Sport Scholarship final 12 months, I really feel like I’ve received the long-term assist of Rhys and which means an enormous quantity, to have somebody in your nook and somebody who’s now a pal.”

Reynolds (left) now gets the chance to benefit from Lloyd's guidance

Reynolds (left) now will get the possibility to profit from Lloyd’s steering

Photograph by: Robert Borowik Media

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