McLaren signs 13-year-old American karter Ugochukwu to long-term deal

2021 F1 season

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McLaren has signed FIA Junior Karting champion Ugo Ugochukwu on a long-term deal, giving the Formula 1 team an option on the future services of the 13-year-old.

Ugochukwu – from New York, USA – was previously a member of the Sauber Karting Team. ADD Management, who also manage McLaren driver Lando Norris, took over his representation last month.

Ugochukwu emulated Norris by winning the top FIA junior karting championship last year. Following a consistently strong season, he clinched the title with second place behind Arvid Lindblad at Wackersdorf in Germany.

“We’ve been watching Ugo’s progress with interest,” said McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown, “so when the opportunity to sign an agreement with him became available, we had no hesitation moving on it.

“Now we’ll focus on giving Ugo the right support when he needs it to help him fulfil his potential.”

Ugochukwu, who has moved up to the senior class this year, said he felt “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.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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23 comments on “McLaren signs 13-year-old American karter Ugochukwu to long-term deal”

  1. @dot_com is it even legal? I thought in football this is not allowed anymore to sign them so young.

    1. @maxv
      In football, signing minor players is banned. However, football clubs are getting around this restriction exploiting a loophole in the FIFA regulations. Article 19(2)(a), allows minors under the age of eighteen to transfer internationally if the child’s parents move to the country for “reasons not linked to football.” Therefore, the clubs will create legal jobs for the parents not linked to football in which they are very well paid so that they register their child within the club according to transfer regulations.

      Signing young footballers, can be very a profitable business because. For example in the case of the European clubs, it has two benefits : It will keep them within the home grown rule (quotas of locally trained players) which was intended to decrease the financial disparity between football teams and second and most importantly make a profit when the player will be sold after he will be eligible to transfer.

      While FIFA can’t completely outlaw minors transfer because that will be unfair to millions of children (sons of immigrants) around the world to practise football but they what they did was to punish clubs and federations in case of abuse of article 19. In the period of 2014-2016, Barcelona, Athletico Madrid, Real Madrid and the Spanish FA were punished (transfer ban) and fined because of what FIFA considered a breach of article 19.

      That said, I don’t know how things operate in motorsport but I’m quite sure that F1 teams are doing the same as football clubs with regard to signing minors.

  2. I remember watching one of the races in the European Karting championship that was streamed on YouTube and I was impressed with him. He controlled the race at the front from start to finish comfortably and saw off whatever the opposition had to three at him.

    I’m confident that Ugo’s one to watch for the future. Looking at his racing history, he has had success in both USA and European racing categories (e.g. 2018 COTA junior karting challenge champion, 2017 All Stars x30 challenge champion and obviously his FIA OKJ European title last year). I’m glad McLaren took the opportunity to snap him up into their young driver programme. It also helps that the same people who managed Lando is also managing him and that he has those American ties with Zak. Plus he has Nigerian blood in him and as a black Nigerian myself it means a lot to me to see another black driver who can potentially race at the top end of Motorsport. I really hope McLaren can look after him in a similar way to what they’ve done with the likes of Hamilton and Norris.

    1. Thanks for the extra context @younger-hamii, reads like he is a good one to keep an eye on indeed.

  3. William Demilo
    22nd March 2021, 17:09

    Rumor has it they will be monitoring hospital cribs for calm heartbeats and brain scans for quick response times…immoral ?? unethical ?? Nah just Racing advantage =)

    Reply moderated
    1. Haha. I would not be surprised, but i hope that the better way of making sport cheap and accessible is used instead.

  4. Will Racefans, Formula1.com et al. report on every junior signing, or is this just virtue signalling?

    Reply moderated
    1. It was a big social Media post by Mclaren themselves so of course there is a hype around it.

    2. I’ll just quote @trublu here:

      I bet if he was white you wouldn’t be worried about him being signed for any reason other than being fast.

  5. And what’s that in reference to?

  6. Hope he’s hired for his talent and not part of some diversity campaign. It’s hard to know these days.

    1. @balue Yep, the sport definitely needs more American drivers!

    2. you both make a lot of sense but more importantly looks like he is quick.

    3. I bet if he was white you wouldn’t be worried about him being signed for any reason other than being fast.

      1. Excellent point there @trublu.

        The first line of the article is about a team signing a FIA Junior Kart champion – i.e. a young kid who clearly showed he deserves to be noticed (and as @younger-hamii mentions convincingly so).

        So why do some people comment on whether he was signed because of anything else than that. I guess the reason they suddenly ask is his name and the tone of skin of the kid. Some commenters show their distorted reasoning.

  7. It’s great to see F1 looking at the young talent from the US. I grew up in New York and there was hardly any karting tracks around for kids to learn at.

  8. I’ll call him Ugo.

    Sounds like a new Lewis Hamilton, supreme at karting. Now he just needs to destroy lower categories for a few years, and replace Daniel Ric at age 18.

  9. dont let him do a Lewis thing

    Reply moderated
    1. What, more poles and race wins than anyone else?

  10. ADD management represents Lando?

    …well that explains alot 😁

  11. I bet Willy T. and G-Mac will keep an eye on this young talent. Not that many US drivers have this privilege. But having an African-American – this is a ground-breaking moment. And he deserves it. This community is growing little by little and and more will come.

    I kept an eye on Jaden Conwright back 3 years ago. But went into sports cars.

  12. NeverElectric
    23rd March 2021, 19:30

    It’s not him, it’s the kart. Put any other kid in that kart and they’ll win too….
    That train won’t be late.

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