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The cars supplied for the programme will be based upon the 1.4-litre MG ZR105. The MG ZR competed in both Group N and Super1600 classes during 2002 and amongst the entries were well-known names such as Gwyndaf Evans and Formula One panellist Tony Jardine. The standard road cars will be modified to Group N specification and include a built-in roll cage, competition seats, full race harnesses, fire extinguishers, sump and tank guards, stiffer suspension, dampers and competition brakes.
The scheme will be run in various stages starting with a competition in regional newspapers attracting young talent of both sexes between the ages of 18-25. Up to 200 candidates will be selected and tested on their vehicle knowledge, stamina and driving ability. A winner from each of the 10 regions will be shortlisted to complete a full programme of testing in the MG ZR before tackling selective national rallies.
After achieving MSA (Motor Sports Association) accreditation all 10 competitors will be entered in the British Rally Championship. An individual points system will be devised to support the scheme and drivers will not only be awarded points for their ability to finish a rally but have points deducted for damage. As a further incentive the winner of the series will be offered the opportunity to drive an MG ZR Super1600 rally car. Opportunities really don’t come any better than this.
Competitors will receive the added bonus of tuition from experienced rally legend Gwyndaf Evans and also receive training in dealing with media exposure, fitness and vehicle dynamics. Talking of his involvement with the scheme Gwyndaf said: "I believe this scholarship sounds the most exciting ever launched in Britain.
"It’s a genuine opportunity to bring MG, rallying and new blood together. I'll be heavily involved with the assessments and will be offering my support and help throughout the scholarship."
MG has a long history of being in motorsport and more recently has competed in Le Mans, British Touring Car Championship and rally in both the domestic and world-wide arenas. Commenting on MG’s support for the scholarship Kim Johnson, director, MG Sport & Racing said: "We’re delighted to be involved with such an innovative idea. MG is a sporting brand and the scholarship fits perfectly within our motorsport portfolio. To promote the Midlands whilst discovering new talent is an added bonus and contestants will have the perfect teacher in Gwyndaf Evans. Bring all this together with the support of Motorsport in the Midlands, AWM, EMDA, the media and our network of MG Rover dealers and we have a winning combination."
Motorsport in the Midlands were involved from the early days with MG Sport & Racing in developing the idea into reality. Managing director, Peter Young said: "Professional footballers start their career kicking a 50p ball against a wall, but how can a youngster become a professional rally driver without very rich parents?
"From today, MG Sport & Racing, supported by AWM and EMDA, will change that scenario, and I am pleased that Creative Media Communications (the company responsible for promoting Motorsport in the Midlands) have been able to bring about the tremendously exciting project."
Mike Clarke, business development manager for transport technology industries, Advantage West Midlands, said: "Motorsport is a large and dynamic industry that thrives on the back of both sporting spectacles and participation. By making it easier for people to participate in this sport, we are introducing rallying to an entire audience who would otherwise be only able to watch from the sidelines. Our overall aim is to develop and support this important industry. It can then face the challenges and opportunities of the future and so add a valuable contribution to the skills, employment and economy in the area."
Graham Brown, cluster development manager (Motorsport) at the East Midlands Development Agency said: "EMDA is delighted to be associated with this innovative scheme. The opportunity for complete novices to prove their rally driving talent and compete at no cost for a fully funded works drive is rare indeed. With local communities able to follow the exploits of their adopted driver over the course of a championship season, this scheme will help demonstrate that motorsport can be much more accessible than is commonly believed. This should increase participation in the sport and aid development in the area."
North Warwickshire and Hinckley College will also be assisting the programme by providing motor vehicle technicians as service support crews during rallies. The crews will be selected from full-time students currently enrolled on the Level Two Technical Certificate (bodywork or mechanical).
Issued by MG Rover Group Communications