McLaren Racing has announced the signing of rising American karting star Ugo Ugochukwu.

The 13-year-old joins the Woking squad as part of a “long-term agreement” that provides McLaren with an option on Ugochukwu’s services in the future.

McLaren Racing will support Ugochukwu’s continued development as he progresses through the junior categories of motorsport, having most recently been crowned FIA European karting champion in 2020.

Ugochukwu began karting in New York in 2013 and has already racked up an impressive list of achievements throughout his karting exploits in the United States and Europe, winning a total of six championship titles.

“I’m honoured to be signed by such an iconic team as McLaren Racing so early in my career,” Ugochukwu said.

“To have the support of McLaren is fantastic and what any young driver dreams of. I’m focused right now on developing as a driver and racer, so having McLaren by my side can only help me on and off the track.”

The signing of Ugochukwu mirrors McLaren’s decision to offer now seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton a contract when he was also just 13 years old back in 1998.

“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,” said McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown.

“Now we’ll focus on giving Ugo the right support when he needs it to help him fulfil his potential.” 

McLaren F1 team principal Andreas Seidl said the signing marks a departure from the traditional young driver programme approach to discovering new talent.

“Ugo is a promising young talent with strong development prospects,” he added.

“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.”