By Shell on Aug. 03, 2021
Founded last year and already flourishing, Racing Together is a program that seeks to realise the untapped potential of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and give young machine-keen people a route into motor racing and STEM careers. It provides a chance for a select group of 12 to 16 year olds to learn everything about motorsport from scratch, including how to build and tune a car, how to handle the media and, perhaps most importantly, how to race.
Viva Energy is an early backer of the program, signing a three-and-a-half year deal to support its establishment and growth, along with Shell V-Power Racing Team CEO Ryan Story, who sits on the board, and racing legend Dick Johnson, who is an ambassador.
Selection for an initial pilot team of 30 was based around Logan City in Brisbane, which has the highest population of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island young people in Queensland, and based on consultation with community leaders and Indigenous advisors from the Gunya Meta organisation.
Participants were able to learn about car driving, mechanics, safety, sustainability and more as they bolstered their motorsport skills and knowledge.
This initial development process included converting a Hyundai Excel road car into a race car that complies with specific technical regulations. A team of 10 are now competing with that car in this year’s Queensland Hyundai Excel championship.
Ancient and modern cultures coming together
To celebrate the partnership between Viva Energy and Racing Together, the Shell V-Power Racing Team ran a special tribute livery designed by the Racing Together team’s driver, 17-year-old Braedyn Cidoni. His work was inspired by artist Allison Millcock's ‘Turtles Crossing Cultures’.
“While Allison's art represents her longing to connect with her ancestors, I used the turtle to highlight the environment and the wildlife that we need to protect, and added the snake to represent the fierceness and power behind the Racing Together team,” says Braedyn.
Having a specially designed livery showcased by the Shell V-Power Racing Team was also emblematic of how far the program has come since its foundation by Garry Connelly, the program’s chairman, and his wife Monique.
“We started Racing Together late last year with tentative steps, but it has flourished quickly thanks to the support of many in the motorsport and Indigenous communities,” says Garry.
“We have already put a car on track, run by our first group of 10 Indigenous teenage girls and boys, for two meetings in the Queensland Hyundai Excel championship and the support race for the Supercars Indigenous Round in Darwin.”
The partnership with Viva Energy will help Racing Together expand to other Indigenous communities across the country. After the success of the pilot scheme, Garry now hopes they will be able to train “more than 130 young people in all aspects of motorsport participation on- and off-track, and also mentor them in important personal matters such as education, health and wellbeing, and road safety”.
Garry plans to select a group every year to form a competitive core racing team, while awarding one outstanding member of the team the prize of a place in Sydney’s Ferrari Academy.