Tuesday 9th February 2010 by C. Freeman
Students will get the chance to work as part of a real-life racing team on a new diploma course starting in September. Lunar Racing is probably the only racing team in the country to instruct and use students as race mechanics and last year the team were placed fifth in the Britcar Production Championships and came third overall in their class.
The scheme was the brainchild of Paul Kneeshaw, a teacher and lecturer with an engineering background who set Lunar Racing up in 2001. Since then he has been joined by Eddie Farrow who has experience in racing as well as the haulage business and Chris Rapps, a former F1 engineer.
The trio have a workshop and suite of classrooms at Rockingham Speedway and they are signing up their first cohort of local students who will study an IMI (Institute of Motor Industry) Level 2 qualification. Students will attend their workshop for one day a week for two years and, as well as learning practical skills, there will also be theory, as well as the chance to work as pit-crew when the team is racing at weekends. Their final qualification, which is recognised by the motor industry, will be the equivalent of five A* -C graded GCSEs.
Assistant Principal in charge of Applied Learning, Jenn Watts said: 'This will be a fantastic opportunity for our students. They will have to go through a formal interview process to make sure that they are the right candidates for the course but to work alongside experienced racing industry professionals will give them a tremendous head-start if they want to pursue a mechanical or technical career. Paul, Eddie and Chris are really enthusiastic about this project and it teaches students a wide range of life skills as well.'
Currently the team have two racing cars, an MGZS and a Vauxhall Monaro, but their expect to increase their stable to four by next season. Drivers pay Lunar Racing to run, tune and engineer their cars to peak performance and funds will also be raised by the online shop, which is run by Eddie's son, Dave. They will sell motorsports components, including some which the students will be involved in producing, and all money raised will be ploughed back into the project.
Lunar Racing plan to take 16 Year 10 students per day initially and, if there is enough interest they may run the Level 3 IMI qualification as an option for Sixth Formers.
Eddie Farrow said: 'The Level 2 course is quite attainable. There's three health and safety modules, 11 other modules, written tests, online tests and practical assessments. All are achievable goals and, as it's a two-year course, it means we will have time to teach the students other skills as well, like machining the parts we need.
'They work to deadlines because if we have to get a car ready for a race weekend then it's got to be finished on Friday morning. We take health and safety incredibly seriously. The students can come racing and working in the pit garages aged 14 and over but they have to be 16 to go out into the pitlane or on the pitwall. The experience they get here will mean they are infinitely more employable than their peers because of the pressure. We've got them refuelling cars in a pit lane, changing tyres and doing pit-stops. That's real life experience. If they have got a genuine love of mechanical things then we can do the rest here.'