McLaren sign long-term deal with 13-year-old American karting ace Ugo Ugochukwu
Have McLaren got a headstart in signing one of motor racing's stars of the future? They'll certainly be hoping so after signing FIA European karting champion Ugo Ugochukwu to a long-term deal at 13 years old - the same age Lewis Hamilton was when the Woking squad secured his signature.
Ugochukwu, who has been described as a "revelation" by McLaren, was victorious in the 2020 FIA OKJ European Champoinship and has also won various national and international karting accolades in his native USA and in Europe.
The Woking team have a history of picking rising stars, with Hamilton, Kevin Magnussen, Stoffel Vandoorne and Lando Norris all alumni of their "tailored" young driver programme.
Team Principal Andreas Seidl explained how McLaren will continue to identify and sign young talent such as Ugochukwu.
He said: “This signing reflects our refocused approach to identifying and supporting new talent, away from a formal young driver programme to a more tailored basis.
“Ugo is a promising young talent with strong development prospects. While he is still early in his career, it is clear he has the ingredients to be successful in the sport.”
McLaren CEO Zak Brown gave an insight into how long the team have been watching Ugochukwu's progress in prestigious karting competitions such as the FIA's European Championship, and the Challenge of the Americas Junior Championship that he won in 2018.
“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 Brown. Now we’ll focus on giving Ugo the right support when he needs it to help him fulfil his potential.”
Ugochukwu, who began his karting career in New York State in 2013, added: “I’m honoured to be signed by such an iconic team as McLaren Racing so early in my career. 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.”