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Shining a light on the work of the British Motorsport Trust

For over 45 years, the organisation has been helping to fund training and safety initiatives, but a recent rebrand is designed to raise awareness so it can support even more clubs

Motorsport Trust Marshals

For a charitable organisation that has been helping support UK motorsport for over 45 years, the British Motorsport Training Trust has not exactly been a well-known name. Every year it gives grants totalling six-figure sums to fund training and safety initiatives, and yet it has been operating somewhat behind the scenes. Until now, that is.

A rebrand to become the British Motorsport Trust, in addition to highlighting its work outside of the training sphere, is being used to help raise awareness of its important duties and enable it to assist more clubs and organisations.

“Originally the trust was set up to train people, particularly in safety,” explains current chairman Rod Parkin, an experienced clerk of the course and steward. “But the remit has, for quite a while now, extended beyond that so we thought taking ‘training’ out of the title was appropriate, so people don’t think we’re only giving grants for training. British Motorsport Trust gives us a very wide remit.

“The rebrand was also to make sure people are aware of us. Like with other charities, we can only spend money if we bring it in, so we’re trying to increase awareness of what we do to see if we can attract some more funding.”

Although training may no longer be part of the organisation’s name, education remains one of its three core pillars – it’s been an essential element of the trust since it was founded in 1977. Back then, very little training of volunteers and officials was carried out, whereas nowadays the trust helps governing body Motorsport UK deliver a comprehensive national programme.

“Motorsport UK have invested a lot of money in training people so they can deliver training courses and we support them to enable that to flourish,” says Parkin. “But we also give grants to individual organisations that want to run a training day, for example on being the first on a scene of a crash.”

Parkin says helping to support such in-person events is still invaluable in the post-pandemic world where so much is now carried out online, although he does believe the virtual gatherings have an important role to play as well, particularly given their potential to help a “wider audience”.

The trust helps to fund safety improvements, such as LED marshalling panels

The trust helps to fund safety improvements, such as LED marshalling panels

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Away from training, another key pillar of the trust for many years has been safety. It helps to fund items and initiatives that improve the safety of venues or help to ensure a club’s events run smoothly. “Typically, the safety applications would be for rescue units to replace equipment or even help to buy a rescue unit,” says Parkin. “There’s a lot of equipment now coming to the end of its life so we’re getting a lot of applications for new pieces of medical equipment or heavy cutting gear, for example. There’s also applications from venues – race circuits or kart circuits – to apply for funding for safety barriers. We will look at anything that helps make venues safer.”

An area in which the trust has been increasingly active in recent years has been closed-road rallies. These events have become popular with competitors but can sometimes be organised by very small clubs that need assistance even with basic items such as plastic tape barriers to keep spectators in certain places. “We’re very happy to receive applications for any safety equipment they need,” states Parkin. “It sounds trivial but running an event is very expensive, particularly for smaller motor clubs.”

But perhaps the most obvious example of an area the British Motorsport Trust has supported in recent years comes with the installation of light panels at various circuits around the country. Working alongside venue owners and Motorsport UK to fund them, Parkin says 74 new light panels have been installed to date, and the trust’s contribution to these has come from its new special projects pillar, which caters for larger initiatives than the organisation has traditionally handled.

Parkin describes the panels as “incredible” and believes they are a major step forward when it comes to safety. “We can put them where they’re most visible to a driver and you can put them in a place where you wouldn’t put a marshal because it’s not safe – they’ve been a tremendous help,” he says.

“Originally the trust was set up to train people, particularly in safety. But the remit has, for quite a while now, extended beyond that so we thought taking ‘training’ out of the title was appropriate, so people don’t think we’re only giving grants for training," Rod Parkin

Not all of the schemes the trust supports are quite so wide-reaching, but Parkin estimates that it spends in the region of £200,000 per year on various grants, although that figure can more than double in some seasons. All applications are assessed by an independent panel that decides how much funding they should receive, but Parkin says they very rarely reject anyone.

“We try to distribute the funds as fairly as we can,” he explains. “The smaller clubs don’t have the resources to be able to fund things, but that’s not to say the bigger clubs don’t need help as well.” And, although it works very closely with Motorsport UK, it’s important to stress that the organisation is completely independent and makes its own decisions on funding.

With the rebrand taking effect, and a donate button on its website allowing anyone to contribute to the trust’s work, Parkin is optimistic of helping more people in the future. “If anyone is able to contribute to the sport by giving any amount of funding, we will spend it as sensibly as we can,” he adds. It’s a noble cause, and perhaps now the British Motorsport Trust will break out from the shadows and finally become a better-known part of the UK motorsport scene.

The trust aims to distribute funds as fairly as  possible to make sure smaller and bigger clubs are supported

The trust aims to distribute funds as fairly as possible to make sure smaller and bigger clubs are supported

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

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