Mika Hakkinen on hand for Laureus MotorV8 project

FORMULA ONE LEGEND MIKA HAKKINEN MOTORV8s YOUTHS AT LAUNCH OF NEW LAUREUS PROJECT IN ENGLAND MILTON KEYNES, December 3, 2008 -- Laureus World Sports Academy member and double Formula One World Champion Mika Hakkinen was guest of honour at the ...

FORMULA ONE LEGEND MIKA HAKKINEN MOTORV8s YOUTHS AT LAUNCH OF NEW LAUREUS PROJECT IN ENGLAND

MILTON KEYNES, December 3, 2008 -- Laureus World Sports Academy member and double Formula One World Champion Mika Hakkinen was guest of honour at the Daytona track in Milton Keynes for the official launch of Laureus MotorV8, a motor sport-based project, supported by the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation.

In his first project visit as a Laureus World Sports Academy member, Hakkinen was supported by three of his fellow Academy members: legendary tennis player Boris Becker, former All Blacks rugby captain Sean Fitzpatrick and Argentina's Hugo Porta, who has just been elected to the International Rugby Board Hall of Fame.

Laureus MotorV8 is a programme which aims to broaden the mechanical skills of young people to improve their employability and provide a diversionary activity for them, both inside and outside school hours. Participants include drug users, young offenders, those with physical disabilities and those who find integration difficult, such as recent immigrants.

The innovative project, which is based in Oxford and can help up to 300 young people each year, is funded by the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation in co-operation with the UK arm of global partners Mercedes-Benz. The four Academy members presented Laureus MotorV8 with a cheque for ^a100,000 to fund its activities.

During the day long activities, the sporting legends rolled up their sleeves and worked together with the young people and their instructors to participate in practical sessions, discussions and on-track competitions.

Finnish racer Hakkinen, World Champion in 1998 and 1999, said: "I am particularly proud to be here today since it is my first official Laureus Sport for Good Foundation visit and of course because it has a motor based theme. More importantly, this project really shows the Laureus mission at work in the best possible way. This is a wonderful programme that demonstrates how the power of sport can make a difference to young people's lives.

"This programme has very good elements because it encourages young people to interact, work as a team and gives them practical experience. For me being part of a team was one of the most important aspects during my F1 career and it was great to see how it has been used to motivate these young people," added Hakkinen.

Wilfried Steffen, CEO of Mercedes-Benz UK, whose head office is based in Milton Keynes, said: "As part of our global corporate strategy, we are delighted to support the wonderful work of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation. This project is a perfect fit for us and we are delighted to be able to provide these young people with opportunities to better understand the motor industry and the opportunities it provides."

Laureus MotorV8 is a community outreach programme that uses motor sport to engage with vulnerable young people who are at risk of exclusion from school, and with other disadvantaged groups who find it difficult to integrate with society. The young people, aged 13-15, chosen for this project, are elected by schools and youth groups in and around Oxford.

The project encourages the teenagers to broaden their skills and improve their employability by teaching them the values of teamwork and goal-setting, as well as providing a diversionary activity to encourage them to keep away from delinquent activity.

The six-week long courses incorporate mechanics and karting, mixed with discussion groups addressing social issues. All those taking part in Laureus MotorV8 are encouraged to work as a team with the final goal being a competition day. On this day all the young people from the project come to one location, where they compete as equals in a series of kart races, team-building exercises and mechanics competitions. The day is a reward for successfully completing the course and provides an excellent fun finale.

The project gives some of the most vulnerable young people from Oxfordshire the opportunity to learn a new skill and enjoy the experience of working towards a final goal, where they can be part of a team mixing with contemporaries who have the same or similar social issues.

Laureus MotorV8 is funded by the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation and implemented by TRAX, The Oxfordshire Motor Project. TRAX was originally set up to address car crime in Oxfordshire and initially focused on building and racing 'banger' cars as an alternative to youth crime. TRAX now concentrates on go-kart, car and motor cycle maintenance. TRAX also offers issue-based group work addressing problems such as drugs, crime, violence and sexual health, and works to improve lifeskills such as teamwork, literacy and numeracy. In the 16 years it has been operating in Oxfordshire, TRAX has worked with over 5,000 vulnerable young people.

Those who successfully complete the Laureus MotorV8 course have access to further diversionary activities in the area. These include a wide range of projects offered by TRAX, such as advanced mechanics training, membership of other outreach youth groups and the TRAX Go-kart Club. Continuing their links with TRAX, also allows the participants to receive continuing support from the project workers.

The Laureus Sport for Good Foundation addresses social challenges through a worldwide programme of sports related community development initiatives. Since its inception Laureus has raised ^a15 million for projects which have helped improve the lives of over 750,000 young people. The Foundation addresses issues in particular involving, but not limited to, young people impacted by social exclusion, gun and gang violence, discrimination, community integration, peace and reconciliation, and education.

Laureus MotorV8 is the fifth Laureus Sport for Good Foundation project in the United Kingdom. The others are Fight for Peace in London's East End, It's A Goal in Macclesfield and Manchester, London Active Communities and Youth Sport Foyle in Northern Ireland.

Boris Becker, Sean Fitzpatrick, Mika Hakkinen and Hugo Porta are members of the Laureus World Sports Academy, a unique group of 46 of the greatest living sportsmen and woman, who share a belief in the power of sport to break down barriers, bring people together and to improve the lives of young people around the world. The Academy members volunteer their services as global ambassadors for the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation.

-credit: laureus.com

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Series CHARITY , F1