Driven By Us became the first ethnic minority club to be approved by Motorsport UK in 2023; the organisation founder James Dornor was the former Electronic Support Engineer at Mercedes’ F1 team
By Ella-Esrene Frederick
Last Updated: 20/11/23 3:00pm
Driven By Us vice-chair Jahee Campbell-Brennan says the collective responsibility to improve diversity in motorsport is with all, and explains how the organisation is aiming to inspire underrepresented groups into careers in motorsport.
The organisation was first founded in 2022 by James Dornor, who was a former electronic support engineer at Mercedes’ F1 team. His experiences and aim to support and create a safe space for minority groups in the motorsports industry helped drive the creation of club community network ‘Drive By US’, which formally became the first official ethnic minority club to be approved in 2023 by Motorsport UK.
Vice-chair Campbell-Brennan was down at an event with Drive By Us in Team Sport in London, and in an exclusive interview with Sky Sports News explained more about the organisation’s mission to diversify motorsport and how it interlinks with other initiatives, such as Lewis Hamilton’s Mission 44 in its aims.
“We’re all on the same mission and that is to increase the participation of underprivileged and young Black people into motorsport,” he said. “So, we’re covering the engineering side of things specifically. But we’re all on the same mission, so all our efforts are best placed together.”
The lack of access to motorsport has prompted the creation of organisations such as Driven by Us to find a pathway into careers in the industry for underrepresented minority groups.
The focus on providing STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematical) opportunities for young people by sharing knowledge and allowing them to participate in activities at events such as Team Sports, Campbell-Brennan said allows the organisation to “give them some inspiration to follow a career into motorsport”.
“One of the key parts of Driven By Us is that we want to engage with kids and the best way to do that is to give them things to see, feel and touch,” he said.
“That’s a key part of what we’re doing. So today we’ve got a range of activities, to touch on the different aspects of motorsport and just drive some inspiration; to engage with kids at key points of their career and steer them towards the path in stem, through the platform of motorsport.”
Responsibility is with all to diversify motorsport
The aim to diversify sport comes from different parties uniting to embark on a mission of change, such as the government and governing bodies within motorsport.
When asked about where the responsibility lies Campbell-Brennan said: “I think partly it’s a joint effort. I think as engineers, Driven By Us is mostly engineers, we have a responsibility to look behind us and help to open the doors and be representations and role models for those that are coming behind us.
“And I think the governing body has a key part to play in that in certain initiatives, and you know raising the publicity around it and the public image of motorsport to groups that haven’t previously been touched.”
The price of being a driver is still the focus of funding
Lack of access and diversity in sport is not just exclusive to motorsport, but it remains a sport that requires a lot of funding and therefore can exclude communities that cannot meet these expenses. When asked how Driven By Us navigates that, by ensuring it’s as accessible to as much of the wider community as possible, Campbell-Brennan said: “It’s expensive for drivers for sure. Engineering has less of a financial barrier.
“The degrees are expensive for anyone, so I know there are certain programs that are helping to, you know, support people through degrees.
“There’s also apprenticeships, which is another way of getting into the technical side of motorsport. You know, as mechanics and technicians. So there’s a range of initiatives going on.
“But yeah the price of being a driver, that’s definitely something that needs some work.”
There have been many milestones in motorsport that we have seen over recent years that have become sources of inspiration for more diverse communities to become involved in both on and off the track.
For example, the establishment of F1 Academy, a racing series for women aimed at preparing young drivers to progress to the highest levels of racing. Stephanie Travers, who was a trackside fluid engineer at Mercedes and the first black woman to stand on an F1 podium, collected the Mercedes constructors’ trophy three years ago.
Campbell-Brennan shared the milestones he was most proud of.
“Well, just the fact that ‘Driven By Us’ exists is a great milestone,” he said.
“You know this this is a new thing we we have kind of formed earlier this year, but you’ve also got Mission 44 which was started and funded by Lewis Hamilton as a result of the report he commissioned. So, I think, you know, it’s gathering momentum. And representation and the achievements are only going to increase over the coming months, years.
“Yeah, it’s a great time for the sport I think.”