Our sport is unique in many ways.
But one of the most compelling is the the fact that once a person is in a racing car, the outside world cannot tell their gender, colour or physicality; disabled drivers can compete alongside able bodied athletes, women against men.
Billy Monger lost his legs in an F4 accident, but less than a year later he is competing in a more powerful F3 car and getting on the podium.
One of the most powerful – and moving – voices at the FIA Sport Conference in Manila this week was Nathalie McGloin, who was paralysed in a road accident as a teenager and who now races a hand-controlled Cayman S in the UK Porsche Club Championship.
Her story is remarkable; a car took away her right to a ‘normal’ life, her ability to walk and run. But in a powerful act of redemption it is a car that has given her back her independence and empowered her.
No other sport can do that.
Rugby players paralysed in a collapsed scrum can return to wheelchair rugby, but it is far from being the same game.
Clay Regazzoni, Alex Zanardi and more recently Monger have all proved motorsport’s unique quality in this regard.
McGloin is now the president of the FIA Disability and accessibility commission and she spoke in a panel in Manila about the way the sport is opening up the funnel for disabled drivers in particular.
“Cars are naturally accessible to people with disabilities because of the way the controls can be adapted,” she said.
“We need to start promoting motor sport to people who are born with disabilities,” she said. “I’m looking at the inspiration of the ‘Girls on Track’ initiative and how something like that could be used to try and promote motor sport to everyone with disabilities – and make sure that people realise that this is for all of us.
“It’s really important that the ASNs (national sporting federations) promote and facilitate disabled drivers by putting in place a licencing process to make sure that there is a safe and fair way of assessing whether people with disabilities are eligible for motor sport.”
Click HERE find out more about Nathalie’s work and her Spinal Track charity initiative.
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