Anna Kennedy Online – Autism Awareness Charity

Racing on the Spectrum

 

 

This month a big grassroots motorsport event brought three Autism Hero Award winners together for a very special evening. Previous Autism Hero award winner sixteen-year-old Sandro Ballesteros regularly hosts Autism Friendly indoor karting sessions at his local Rochdale-based venue TeamKarting, which is owned by another AKO ambassador Matty Street, with sessions where children and adults of all abilities can enjoy the thrills of speed in a safe, friendly environment.

But February’s Autism Friendly Karting turned out to be a very, very, special evening. Not only did they have a visit from another of our Autism Heroes, TeamBRIT’s star McLaren GT driver Bobby Trundley, but he had a film crew accompanying him, and a surprise announcement too.

US-based Citizen Film are currently filming Bobby as part of their forthcoming documentary “Racing on the Spectrum”, which will also feature the lives of Nascar driver Armani Williams, and the inspiration for the autism-friendly karting sessions, Canadian Radical Champion and Racing with Autism founder Austin Riley, who paid us a visit on his UK tour in 2017. The documentary will not only follow these three in their respective car racing disciplines, but also look into the challenges the young men face off the track with daily life, relationships, employment, etc.

 

Tony Ballesteros, Sandros’ dad, who also helps run the sessions said “ All these factors combined tonight and made for our biggest-ever attendance, despite the visit we tried to  keep it as close to our usual format as we could for our regulars. The night went extremely well with the opportunity for all to take to the track. As part of the TeamKarting fleet they have a two-seater kart which we regularly use, usually Sandro or a staff member can take customers of any ability around the circuit, on these sessions it is used as a tool to build confidence, ease anxiety, and coach techniques to beginners. He also offers assistance and encouragement with the safety gear, like putting on balaclavas, helmets, and gloves, all of which can create additional sensory issues.

The feedback we have had has been amazing, and it was great to see the support and encouragement being offered from our most experienced teenage drivers towards beginners. Off track these monthly sessions can often be like a support group for the parents and carers too, it’s always good to talk with others who are going through similar things. It can get pretty emotional, especially when we see someone drive on their own for the very first time and the confidence boost this brings…sometimes you need to bring tissues, it can bring a tears to your eyes, I am constantly reminded of Sandros’ first drive at age five. It turned out to be one of the best decisions we ever made.

Thanks to the venue and all the staff for organising a great evening, and to the film crew for their calm approach and sensitivity.”

 

The night ended with a very BIG special announcement too…

We are all absolutely thrilled, that in the next step of Sandros’ motorsport journey he will be actually pairing up with Bobby Trundley in an Audi TT for the Club Enduro Championship, where they will be sharing the mostly 2hr endurance races. Huge thanks to Dave Player of Team BRIT for their support in making this work. Speaking as Sandros’ mentor and teammate Bobby said.

 

 

“I am really looking forward to racing with Sandro. I have known him for years and watched him develop into a fantastic driver. We both found our passion for racing in karting so are equally as competitive and therefore taking the championship really seriously….”

“We are in it to win it !!”

He added. “It will be a great opportunity to mentor Sandro, sharing what I have learned in my 5 years with TeamBRIT, during which time I have moved from racing a BMW 116 which Sandro raced in last year, to a McLaren GT4.

I am really grateful to all at TeamBRIT for making this possible. TeamBRIT will also be giving support to Sandros’ dad, Tony, who will be leading our championship efforts. So it will be great to bring everyone together in the paddock.”

 

The pair’s first Club Enduro race is on Sunday 21st April at Croft circuit where Sandro drove his maiden solo race, a one-and-a-half hour endurance in the BMW 116 last year after starting the season paired with Matty Street, who has also driven in 116 class with Bobby previously at Team BRIT. All the inspiring drivers mentioned here are constantly crossing paths in their racing journeys as they support each other and promote autism acceptance and inclusion in motorsport and beyond.

Throughout 2024 Bobby will also be competing in select rounds of the British Endurance Championship, driving a McLaren 570s GT4, a car he has driven for the past two years in the British GT Championship and McLaren Trophy Series Europe.

 

Sandro is so proud to have the support and to be following in Bobbys’ footsteps.

He said “I am so proud to be teaming up with Bobby, he is a good friend who I have always looked up to and can learn a lot from. We first met at an Anna Kennedy autism hero awards evening and have some nice history together endurance karting and sim racing online in lockdown. It will be great to take my racing to the next level with someone who has his experience, and truly understands.

 

 We also share the same goals off the track too, using our racing to share autism awareness and acceptance, and supporting and hopefully inspiring others to follow their dreams. I think we will make a great team as we both dream of racing the 24hrs of Le Mans one day…..With a full team racing on the spectrum that really would make history.

We still have a lot of work to do in preparation before the start of the season, and I am looking forward to the new challenge of longer races, in race refueling and driver swaps, with the addition of getting used to a totally different, more powerful front wheel drive car. I am already counting down the days though….so excited, the TT is a great car.

With the step up in performance there is also a significant step up in running costs, so if there are any businesses out there who would like to get involved please get in touch, we have various levels of sponsorship available.

Also thanks to everyone who attended, and for the kind messages of support both myself and Bobby have received since the announcement. We look forward to seeing you at some of the races.”

 

 

Article by Tony Ballesteros

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