New academy supports junior motorsport stars

Toyota has put its muscle firmly behind motorsport development with the creation of the GR Junior Academy.

Say the words Gazoo Racing (GR) and you immediately conjure up images of the giant-slaying Toyota GR Yaris, the superb Supra or the Toyota GR Motorsport team that won the 2022 Dakar.

For six youngsters, however, GR means a whole lot more. This is thanks to the newly created GR Junior Academy, a racing mentorship and training programme created by Toyota South Africa and racing legend Leeroy Poulter, which carry the endorsement of Motorsport South Africa.

 

“Finding the right youngsters with racing talent was not easy, but all our GR Junior Academy members have proven themselves worthy of their place in the team, and we cannot wait to see how they develop and grow in this wonderful sport,”

Leeroy Poulter

Building motorsport careers

“Through the GR Junior Academy, we are giving six young people the opportunity to build a career in motorsport that they would otherwise not have been able to have,” says Poulter, who acts as team manager, coach and mentor to the six youngsters.

With its developmental aim, the Academy hopes to support the entire motorsport community and not only junior motorsport or its own Gazoo Racing teams. This means that all six youngsters – Reagile Spice Mailula, Olerato Sekudu, Sa’aad Variawa, Emma Dowling, kC Ensor-Smith [stet] and Kian Grottis – are racing in their own race-prepared Rotax kart in the national championship and that they will leave the academy one day with the “skills and instincts of a true racing driver,” à la Poulter.

A world-champion mentor

Poulter would certainly know. After becoming a World Champion in karting at age 12, he landed his first factory drive at 15 and later became the European Karting Champion, the National South African Cross Country and National Rally Champion and a top five finisher in the Dakar, arguably the toughest and most prestigious off-road race in the world.

On the track

While Toyota Motorsport South Africa only announced the creation of the Academy at its State of the Motor Industry (SOMI) 2022 event, Poulter, his team and the young racers have been preparing since the start of the year and have already competed in their first Rotax Max Challenge at the Zwartkops raceway on 12 February. In the race, Seduku dominated both Senior Max races for a top spot on the podium, while all the other GR Junior Academy members showed their grit and talent by not only participating, but actively competing for the front of the pack.

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