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Racing Together Helps Indigenous Youth Line Up on the Grid

Harry Bates (white shirt) and local racer Kade Crawford (right) with the 2022 Racing Together team

Not-for-profit motorsport organisation Racing Together, has selected a new cohort of entrants to its Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Youth Motorsport Program, following an Open Day in Townsville on 15-16 October.

Racing Together was started in late 2020 by motorsport heavyweights Garry and Monique Connelly as a way to address the nearly non-existent levels of participation by Indigenous youth in motorsport.

The new Racing Together Team of Indigenous boys and girls aged between 12 and 17 will build, prepare and race a car in the Queensland Excel Racing Series, while they complete their education.

Toyota Australia is a proud supporter of Racing Together and Toyota Australia Chief Marketing Officer Vin Naidoo said it was fantastic to see the program take on a new cohort from the Townsville area.

"Toyota supports, and is involved in, motorsport at all levels across the globe and Racing Together does an incredible job to inspire and encourage Indigenous youth to get involved in motorsport," Mr Naidoo said.

"As we have seen through our own experience with the TGRA 86 Series, motorsport, particularly at a grassroots level, is open to anyone with a passion for racing and this program not only gets Indigenous kids immersed in all aspects of motorsport, it gives them the skills and contacts for potential employment in the industry," he said.

The Open Day in Townsville saw applicants for the program undergo a series of evaluations and tests.

Applicants were assessed on topics such as reaction times, dexterity, mechanical and driving skills (using a Toyota GR Supra and GR86), and even underwent a mock media interview.

Current Australian Rally Championship (ARC) champion Harry Bates was in attendance to give attendees an insight into careers in motorsport, racing safety and to offer driving tips.

Team members will not only be responsible for racing the car, but also engineering and mechanics, workshop management and even running the team's social media accounts.

The inaugural Racing Together team was formed following an Open Day in late 2020 at Norwell Motorplex in southeast Queensland, where more than 100 applicants were put through their paces in a range of tests.

That first program saw a team of 10 selected for the inaugural Racing Together Team that built a racecar to compete in the Queensland Excel Racing Series.

The program has been very successful resulting in full-time employment opportunities in the automotive and motorsport sectors for three team members, including Tristian Mitchell-Delaney and Braedyn Cidoni, who have taken on roles in Supercars teams at Dick Johnson Racing and Triple Eight Race Engineering respectively.

Program member Ryan Jenyns has also secured an apprenticeship at a local automotive workshop as a result of his participation in Racing Together.

Tristian said the program had helped provide him with unique opportunities to kickstart his career in the motorsport industry.

"The Racing Together program has been a fantastic experience for me; without it I likely wouldn't be working with Dick Johnson Racing right now," he said.

"The experience you gain from this program goes beyond just racing a car, it really provides you with knowledge and experiences across a range of motorsport topics.

"It's great to see the program continue in Townsville, and I look forward to seeing the next bunch of Indigenous kids lining up on the grid."

Prior to starting Racing Together, Garry and Monique Connelly had long discussed ways to improve Indigenous participation in Australian motorsport, and were inspired in part by Lewis Hamilton's comments promoting increased diversity in Formula 1 in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests.

Mr Connelly said the program has been "an outstanding success" and he was proud of the impact that Racing Together has had on its participants.

"Apart from the fact that we've got 10 kids who have formed the team, we've now put over 100 kids through our two-day course at Norwell that involves not only driving skills but classes on social responsibility, road safety and first aid," Mr Connelly said.

"So those kids have had an experience of motorsport which they, as indigenous kids, wouldn't have had. But the ultimate goal is to equip these kids so that they can get a job in the automotive and motorsport industry, and we've succeeded in getting three of them jobs already."

He said that the most satisfying part of the program was seeing the development of the participants not as young members of a racing team, but as people.

"I think I'm most proud of the development of these kids as human beings, showing great leadership potential and working together as a team, learning new skills, doing things they couldn't even imagine doing 18 months ago.

"My wife and I have confidence in the program, and we're really proud that we're getting some big corporates like Toyota on board, letting us expand up to Townsville."