Australia’s first and only indigenous youth motorsport team, Racing Together, will make its debut in the Toyota Gazoo Racing Australia (TGRA) Scholarship Series this weekend when 16-year-old Karlai Warner gets behind the wheel of a Toyota 86.
The Motorsport Australia Trophy Series takes place at Queensland Raceway, with Toyota backing the not-for-profit organisation that helps indigenous youth gain motorsport experience and employment pathways.
The Japanese car maker offered the team a drive in the series to help it further develop its skills and experience, with Karlai getting the chance to get behind the wheel in three Scholarship Series races across the weekend.
Other members of the Racing Together team will be in the pit garage to assist and learn from the Neal Bates Motorsport crew who will prepare and manage the TGRA/Racing Together entry.
Racing Together was started in late 2020 by motorsport heavyweights Garry and Monique Connelly as a way to address the nearly non-existent levels of participation by indigenous youth in motorsport.
Since then, the Racing Together team has built, prepared and raced a car in the Queensland Excel Racing Series and Mr Connelly said having a drive in the TGRA Scholarship Series was a great opportunity for the team to further develop their skills.
“Racing and helping prepare a Toyota 86 will take the team to whole new level and we’re really looking forward to a weekend of thrilling racing action,” he said.
“Over the past three years Karlai has developed a real talent behind the wheel and she and the team are excited about being able to put their skills to test in such a highly-regarded grassroots motorsport category,” he added.
“Our thanks go to Toyota for providing this opportunity that will help grow the skills and experience of the team and further inspire other indigenous kids to see what opportunities there are for them in motorsport.”
The Racing Together program invites indigenous youth between the ages of 12 and 17 to participate in an intensive two-day education and selection program that includes driver training, mechanics, personal health and well-being, career advice and life skills.
The first program, based around Logan City in SE Queensland, saw a team of 10 selected for the inaugural Racing Together Team in 2020, with a second cohort selected through an Open Day event in Townsville last year.
Karlai was chosen as part of the initial program and joined the team as a tyre technician, driving a go-kart before graduating to race the Excel. Now she gets put her skills to the test in the Toyota 86.
“Racing Together has taught me new skills, allowed me to race, and meet so many new people, which would never have happened if the program did not exist,” Karlai said.
“It’s been great racing the Excel but this opportunity to drive a Toyota 86 in a series that is recognised as a pathway to higher levels of motorsport is fantastic, so I’m really looking forward some great racing.”
Racing Together counts current and former Supercars team principals Roland Dane (Triple Eight) and Ryan Story (DJR), former Supercars driver Paul Morris, former RACQ CEO Ian Gillespie AM and indigenous beach volleyball Olympian Taliqua Clancy among its directors.
The success of the program has seen three of the initial cohort gain employment in the automotive and motorsport industries.
Last year it gained global recognition, receiving the inaugural Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) President’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Award from FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem.
The award recognised outstanding commitment to diverse and inclusive practices and activities that foster equitable, sustainable, and measurable change.
The fourth round of the 2023 TGRA Scholarship Series will run as part of the Motorsport Australia Trophy Series at Queensland Raceway from 4-6 August, with the final round at the 2023 Master Blast at Sydney Motorsport Park from 1-3 September.