McLaren, a British motor racing company revealed on Monday that it has signed a 13-year-old Nigerian boy, Ugo Ugochukwu.
Having won a host of titles since he began karting in 2013, Ugo is the reigning European junior karting champion, and before his new contract, he was competing in the colours of its Formula 1 rival Sauber.
The new milestone which has put Nigeria on the map of motorsport is expected to increase Nigerians’ viewership of the sport that is not very popular in the country with the highest population in Africa.
As well as providing support for his career, McLaren has agreed “an option on Ugo’s services in the future.”
“We’ve been watching Ugo’s progress with interest, so when the opportunity to sign an agreement with him became available, we had no hesitation moving on it,” McLaren chief executive Zak Brown said.
The 13-year-old Nigerian has already competed in both the United States and Europe and is currently in the OK Senior class of karting.
“I’m honoured to be signed by such an iconic team as McLaren Racing so early in my career,” said the 13-year-old.
According to Ovie Iroro, the first Nigerian motor racing driver to compete in both the Formula Renault and Formula Ford Championship, funding remains a big challenge to compete in motorsports, even at the lower levels.
“You have track fees, tyres and fuel which have to be paid for by the driver. The path is different, however, if you are one of the lucky ones to be discovered by teams such as McLaren, or if you come from a family with a track record in motorsports,” Iroro said.
With McLaren signing of Ugochukwu, the Nigerian young star is likely to go in the way of Lewis Hamilton, one of the world’s renowned racing drivers, who currently competes in Formula One for Mercedes, as he was signed by McLaren when he was also 13 after.
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal, McLaren F1, said: “Ugo is a promising young talent with strong development prospects. While he is still early in his career, it is clear he has the ingredients to be successful in the sport. This signing reflects our refocused approach to identifying and supporting new talent, away from a formal young driver programme to a more tailored basis.”
Meanwhile, McLaren Racing in August 2020 signed a new Concorde agreement that will allow it to govern Formula 1 through 2025, reaffirming the team’s long-term commitment to the sport.
McLaren has competed uninterrupted in the FIA Formula One World Championship since 1966 when founder Bruce McLaren competed at the Monaco Grand Prix. Since then the team has entered 873 grands prix, won 182 races, eight Constructors’ World Championships and 12 Drivers’ World Championships.
Formula 1 is the highest class of international auto racing for single-seater formula racing cars sanctioned by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA). The World Drivers’ Championship, which became the FIA Formula One World Championship in 1981, has been one of the premier forms of racing around the world since its inaugural season in 1950. The word formula in the name refers to the set of rules to which all participants’ cars must conform.
A Formula 1 season consists of a series of races, known as Grands Prix (French for ‘grand prizes’ or ‘great prizes’), which take place worldwide on purpose-built circuits and on closed public roads.