The UK's governing body for motor racing - the Motor Sports Association - has unveiled a series of development initiatives aimed at stimulating participation and interest in the sport, following the extra attention it has received from Lewis Hamilton's arrival in Formula One.

Keen to attract younger age groups, the MSA used the build-up to the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, to outline its commitment to ensuring that Britain continues to hold a pre-eminent position in world motorsport.

While the group's significant investment in the sport has seen it launch the British Race Elite scheme to complement the existing Rally Elite programme in bringing on young existing talent, the MSA is also targeting new recruits, particularly with the level of enquiries at karting venues around the country having increased dramatically in recent weeks.

By breaking down the barriers to entry, the MSA hopes to attract as many of these newcomers as possible into official competitive motorsport, rather than simply the 'arrive and drive' leisure activity. One particular initiative will see the MSA in effect offering free licences to competitors under 16 years of age. Having purchased their initialGo Racing or Go Karting packs, competitors will then be credited for the cost of their first licence when they ultimately make their application.

It's not just behind the wheel where the recruitment drive for younger participants is taking place, however. It is also within education, and into volunteer officials and administration that the MSA is seeking to spread the word. To reflect the importance of attracting this group, the Motor Sports Council has recently announced the creation of a new advisory forum aimed at young people. It is anticipated that membership of the Next Generation Forum will be limited to people under the age of 25 and the group's recommendations will be presented to Council for consideration.

The Council has also recently approved the creation of cadet marshals. Aged between 11-16, they will be permitted to join the ranks of the 12,000 registered marshals in the UK. While always safeguarding them from unnecessary risk, the MSA will allow the cadets to assist with limited duties on certain events and it is hoped that this will bring valuable new blood to the vital groups of volunteer officials without whom motorsport simply could not take place.

The 'Volunteers in Motorsport' programme has been working hard with the motor clubs in this area, signing up a staggering 800 new marshals in the first two years. With particular relevance to the youth market, however, ViM has worked closely with universities and colleges to establish recognised vocational training and qualifications in motor sport marshalling.

"The youth market is vital to the ongoing strength and success of UK motorsport, both on the track and off it," MSA chief executive Colin Hilton commented, "It is absolutely essential that we do everything we can to attract more young people to this fantastic sport.

"We know that the licence fee is one of the smallest costs in terms of starting competitive motorsport, but we also know that we have to address all potential barriers to entry. Subsidising the initial licence fee gives a very clear indication to young people that we want them in our sport.

"Lewis Hamilton's achievements so far have been a wonderful boost for everyone involved. We must now use this renewed interest to drive up participation across the board, but not just in our flagship disciplines like circuit racing. There are 22 disciplines and thousands of motorsport events taking place every year across the UK. Many of them are low-cost events and some are undertaken in one's own road car, so we need to get the message through that there is more to our sport than just F1.

"The UK boasts the best motorsport in the world. We have a glorious history of British success and our championships have always been the proving ground for young competitors from around the globe. No fewer than nine of the current F1 grid cut their teeth in British championships and that is great news for our sport.

"It is critical for the future that we ensure continued UK representation at the highest level of international motor sport and that we bring more people into the sport, either as participants, spectators or volunteer officials. We will continue to develop our programmes to deliver these results and I hope that these initiatives will make a big impact."

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