Sport19th April 2015

Deaf Karter Caleb McDuff Starts Season With New Sponsors But Same Ambition

Securing sponsorship from Wix Racing, Trusted Car Parts and Millers Oils, Karting just got a lot more serious

by SLFirst Sports Team

The vast majority of Deaf children have a limited opportunity to excel in mainstream sport. Even with today's high tech hearing aids and cochlear implants, being deaf still provides something of a barrier between a Deaf child, coaches/trainers and team mates. Last year, we had the pleasure of following Caleb McDuff, the youngest driver to take his place in karting in the UK, and having secured some wonderful support during the down season, Caleb has been practising hard for the start of the new season at Llandow Kart Club in South Wales.

Now 7, and with a year of racing behind him, Caleb has secured sponsorship from Wix Racing and Sunday 19th April marked the first race day of his 2015 season in the MSA Bambino Championship. Racing under the team name, Wix Silence Racing, Caleb has also secured sponsorship from Trusted Car Parts, Millers Oils, GoCompare and Motorcare Motor Factors. All of Caleb's sponsors are important with Wix Racing in particular a major motor sport sponsor, with previous involvement in NASCAR and the Indy 500 series in the United States and currently sponsoring a team in the British Touring Car Championships in the UK.

On their sponsorship of Caleb, Wayne Stevens, Managing Director, WIX Filtration Ltd. commented, "We are delighted to be supporting young Caleb for the forthcoming race season under the WIX Silence Racing banner. He is a very determined and hardworking young person and it’s inspiring to see his commitment and passion for the sport; especially given he is profoundly deaf. We wish him the best of luck for 2015, racing in the WIX colours as a positive ambassador of the brand."

Travelling the length and breadth of the country last year, we delighted in watching Caleb's progress and with the support of Wix and the other sponsors, this year looks like an exciting time for Caleb who will also be attending other motor sport events as part of the Wix Racing team. For dad Ian, who is also the driver, cook, team manager, mechanic and general dogs body, the last few months could not have been more of a roller coaster, with his determination to get the support Caleb needs, finally paying off. Relieved and excited by the pre-season developments, Ian commented, "It looks like it will be a busy year for Caleb. I hope that his achievements so far and the response of the Wix Racing team will be an inspiration to other deaf youngsters."

Commenting on their sponsorship support for Caleb this year, Justin Bailey, Director at Trusted Car Parts, said, “We are absolutely delighted to be associated with Caleb in his quest to become the World’s first deaf Formula 1 driver. With the massive support Caleb is experiencing his dream will hopefully become a reality, now that really would be a story to tell!”

Practicing all day Saturday, this is an exhausting weekend for Caleb and dad Ian. But with the additional support of mum Leanne, grand parents and other relatives, Caleb is never short of support at his local track.

Turning up for the Sunday race day, we were greeted with a broad beaming smile from Caleb. Adorned in his new racing overalls he stood proudly by his kart, stylishly displaying the Wix Racing logos, keen to get on the track for the first of the four time trial runs that were scheduled to take place throughout the day.

The three Deaf signers in our sports team, bumped into one of the most accomplished Deaf sportspeople in the world, cyclist Tom Smith, a Deaf star who also competes with distinction in the mainstream. Coming down to the Llandow Circuit just to support Caleb, I could not have more admiration for Tom and the time he is prepared to invest in supporting Deaf youngsters. During a hectic day I asked asked Tom about 7 years old Caleb and his ambition to compete in the mainstream. "Today was an ideal chance for me during a break from training to come and support Caleb in his first race of 2015", he explained. "He is an energetic kid and it shows in his racing style. He is still young but I'm sure he will go far. It was a pleasure to watch a young deaf talent compete in the mainstream, just as I started out".

With lots of Winter training behind him, even my untrained eye could see that Caleb is far quicker going around the 1.05 kms track than he was last year. Experienced karters and car racing drivers repeatedly talk about the importance of hearing the engine and the sound of the tyres in respect of traction, but despite being disabled in this respect and having to learn to drive through the feel of the vibration of the kart, Caleb is quickly becoming competitive in his class, now lapping within 5% of the fastest drivers.

In and around people from the Deaf community and his family, Caleb is in his element, loving his race weekend and turning from typical 7 years old boy having fun off the track, to serious racing driver as soon as he puts his helmet and racing gloves on. For Dafydd Eveleigh, a Deaf motor sport enthusiast attending one of Caleb's races for the first time, the day is an exciting one. "It is great to see young Deaf people getting invloved in mainstream sports and working towards becoming elite sports people," he commented.

In cool conditions with a strong cross wind, the open expanse at the old Llandow airfield provided far from ideal race conditions, with the drivers having to cope with the changes in track temperature and the fluctuating wind at each of the corners. At least it was dry all day, heavy showers last year providing an incredible challenge for the Bambino racers. With so little experience on a race track, all of the Bambino drivers equipped themselves with distinction, each driver showing maturity well beyond their years when throwing these karts around the track.

‚ÄčThe Llandow track is very different to Caleb's home track at G Force in Little Mill where he does most of his practice, but in each of the four time-trial races, Caleb is able to keep his kart under expert control, with only tiny differences in his driving line and speed on the bends compared to the quickest drivers in his class. Still on an upward learning curve, everyone concerned with Wix Silence Racing were happy with the way he conducted himself throughout the day, clocking up a 1:05 fastest lap.

Finishing up the weekend as he started, with a lovely smile, I like the fact Caleb likes to see us at his races and even at 7, he appreciates our support. In dad Ian, mum Leanne and his close family, Caleb has a family who put themselves out for him and are prepared to do all they can to support his ambitions. There are still the occasional moments of frustration that come with being Deaf, but everyone around Caleb are determined that he should have his chance to race at the highest level possible and at SLFirst we hope to be there supporting him every step of the way.

With satisfied faces amongst Wix Silence Racing, we left the track after our exhausting day, everyone now looking forward to the next race in the series. 

Article by SLFirst Sports Team

posted in Deaf Sport / Sport

19th April 2015