ACU Academy threatened by cash shortage

Published: 08 April 2003

The ACU Academy could cease to exist by the end of this year unless a funding shortfall of £25,000 is met by new sponsorship.

The academy currently boasts 34 riders, aged between 12 and 18, all off whom are at the top of their fields, such as 2002 Aprilia Superteen champion Jon Boy Lee, 14, and Donna Fox, 18, who came second in the A class of the British Ladies Trials championship. Its aim is to improve the standard of British racing, training our young riders to a level that allows them to compete on the world stage.

Since it started three years ago the academy has received nearly £100,000 in funding from the ACU and has already shown significant success with its riders. But British motorcycle racing’s governing body made it clear from the start that their financial support could not be open-ended.

Dave Luscombe, the ACU Academy Manager, said: " This year is crucial. It will be make-or-break. If we get into year four without the project standing on its own two feet then I think we will be in trouble. "

Many companies currently contribute to the academy but only First National Bank has made any significant cash donations - the rest of the support comes in the form of equipment such as tracks and bikes.

The academy has already scored success with graduates including Jon Kirkham, 17, who is now the youngest rider ever to race in British Superbikes, and Chas Davies, 16, now riding in the 250GP world championship. But Luscombe admits that it is still struggling to raise its public profile.

At a recent academy open day attended by Jamie Whitham and Steve Plater, Whitham was positive. He said: " The academy is a brilliant concept. We’ve been waiting for something like this for years. " But Plater admitted that before he attended the open day he had very little idea of what the academy did.

It initially started as a road race school but has now branched out in to several off-road disciplines. It is also planning to open schools for minimoto, speedway, and supermoto and has been asked by the Motor Sports Association (MSA) to run a karting school. But all this is dependent on securing the additional funding.

After going through a rigorous selection process, including interviews for both the kids and their parents, the riders attend regular free track sessions and seminars covering media training, presentation skills, fitness and diet. But the major emphasis is placed on using sports psychology to get the riders to think like winners.

Luscombe is courting several major companies and the Government’s Sport England programme for help with funding, but admits that in the current economic climate no one wants to part with the cash.

If you need more information on how to get young riders started in road-racing, or you or your company can help support the academy, contact the ACU on 01788 566400. Visit the News message board to post your comments on this story.