Motor Sports Association

Disabled motorsport

As long as you can show you are competent and safe behind the wheel, there is no reason why you can’t compete in motor sport, whatever your disability.

The same applies out of the cockpit as well; all motor sport is run by teams of volunteer marshals, officials and safety crews, and having a disability doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t perform one of these roles.

Motorsport’s most famous disabled driver is Alex Zanardi, who lost both legs in 2001 but has since been a race winner in the FIA World Touring Car Championship.

Meanwhile here in the UK, former MSA British Touring Car Champion Win Percy, suffered paralysis long after his professional racing career ended but still competes in historic racing. More recently Nic Hamilton, younger brother of F1 driver Lewis, has been competing in circuit racing despite suffering from cerebral palsy.

To take part in most grass roots motorsport events all you need is to be a member of one of the UK’s 750 MSA-registered clubs, for which no medical is required. If you then wish to progress further in motorsport you will need to apply for an MSA Competition Licence.

The British Motor Sports Association for the Disabled (BMSAD) looks after the interests of – among others – amputees, insulin-controlled diabetics and those with paralysis, all of whom would have found it impossible to get a circuit racing competition licence just two decades ago.

The BMSAD runs an assessment programme, under which licence applicants attend a racing, stage rally or karting school to assess their competence and safety behind the wheel. This includes a test to evaluate how quickly a driver can get out of their competition vehicle.

BMSAD chairman David Butler, a triple amputee since the age of 11 and now a club racer, says: “It’s only reasonable to do that. We don’t want to risk the lives of marshals, who are fantastic people and would do anything to get a driver out in the event of an accident. When Win Percy did the test, he threw the door open, shoved his legs out and rolled onto the ground. That’s fine because once a driver’s done that they can be dealt with by the marshals.

“Provided we know about it, we can ask a school for a written report on any driver as to whether they are competent and safe,” adds Butler, who set up the criteria for the Assessment Programme. “Our panel is there to encourage people to go racing, not to try to stop them.

“Safety is the number one criteria. If successful, once an applicant has their licence, it proves they are able to race or rally, regardless of any disabilities, and that distinction is important because it means that they are covered by event insurance.”

Licence applicants will also need to see the BMSAD’s medical specialist, Peter Dorrington-Ward. Once he’s given the go ahead, there’s nothing further to stop you.

You can get more details from the Just Mobility website.

Also, see page 122 of the MSA Competitors’ and Officials’ Yearbook, colloquially known the ‘Blue Book’.