Young karting star from Ontario advances career with Nissan Micra Cup, drives message of hope and inspiration at every turn
Nissan and JD Promotion & Compétition are proud to announce 18-year-old karting champion, Austin Riley, as a new driver for the 2017 Nissan Micra Cup season. The teenager from Uxbridge, Ontario, has been racing since he was eight-years-old, competed and succeeded at every level of karting, and inspires crowds of people to follow their dreams with every race.
At the age of 12, Austin was diagnosed on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum. Although his racing career was in its infancy, Austin’s parents, Jason and Jennifer Riley, did not stop his racing dreams, instead, they did the opposite. With the support of family, friends and the karting community, the Rileys nurtured Austin’s burgeoning talent and he found his element on the race track.
As the racing accolades poured in, and Austin’s racing abilities developed, the Rileys realized they had a unique story to share. In 2013 they established Racing with Autism, a platform to raise awareness about autism and Austin’s official racing team.
“Motorsport has given my son countless things he hasn’t been able to find anywhere else in life, and one of them is acceptance,” says Jason Riley, president of Racing with Autism and Austin’s father. “It also teaches coping mechanisms you can’t learn anywhere else, but ones that you can apply every day, no matter what the situation.”
Austin has proven his mettle in the karting community being a three-time karting champion and with numerous career highlights including second place in the 2016 Championship Ron Fellows Karting Challenge in the Rotax DD2 Shifter division, and second place at ECKC Goodwood Kartways in 2016.
It was Nissan Micra Cup veteran driver Metod Topolnik of Azure Racing, and wife Marie Christine Bédard, who introduced the Rileys to the Nissan Micra Cup, after learning about Austin and Racing with Autism. Autism awareness advocates themselves, Topolnik and Bédard were inspired and encouraged by Austin’s achievements, and reached out to his family.
“Our son Thomas was diagnosed with autism at two-years-old and at that moment, our world stopped. We never could have expected this for our beautiful, curious and affectionate little boy,” said Bédard. “Metod and I began doing everything we could to give Thomas the best chance for a better life, and became advocates for autism awareness. When we learned about Austin’s achievements, it gave us immense hope, and we wanted to help support and encourage Austin in the pursuit of his dreams and share this message of hope with people like us who need it most.”
Riley Makes His Micra Cup Debut
After Topolnik offered his Micra Cup race car for Austin to try on the track last year, the Rileys realized something they once considered out of reach – advancing to car racing – was a real possibility. Topolnik of Azure Racing rallied support from Groupe Touchette Pirelli, The Els for Autism Foundation and The Miriam Foundation, to sponsor Austin to participate in the 2017 Nissan Micra Cup season, marking the first time Austin will compete in car racing.
Austin’s debut continues a pattern already seen in the Nissan Micra Cup family. Valérie Limoges; Samuel Crowe; Nicolas Barrette; Kevin King; Stefan Rzadzinski and the Micra Cup champions from the 2015 and 2016 seasons respectively – Olivier Bédard and Xavier Coupal – all earned their racing stripes in karting.
“Offering innovation and excitement for everyone is the heart and soul of the Nissan brand and absolutely carries over into the motorsport side of the business,” says Joni Paiva, president of Nissan Canada Inc. “The Nissan Micra Cup grid is an assembly of highly-skilled, passionate men and women with a mixture of driving backgrounds. Austin diversifies the Nissan Micra Cup series in a wonderful way. I look forward to seeing how Nissan Micra Cup and spec series racing will further advance Austin’s already-impressive career.”
On May 7th, the Nissan Micra Cup drivers, including Austin, gathered in Mirabel for the annual test day ahead of the season start. Austin’s passion for advancing his career was apparent, as the young karting star gained speed and confidence with every lap. “I’ve been really excited to drive on the track as a Nissan Micra Cup driver. Getting behind the wheel of the Micra one day before I turn 18 is the best birthday gift I could ask for,” says Austin Riley. “Racing is where I belong. I strongly tell everyone to keep following their dreams, nothing is impossible.”
“This is a very exciting time for us as a family, as a team, and for the autism community. Austin is about to embark on a fun challenge with the Nissan Micra Cup, but one that is necessary to further cultivate his talent, which we staunchly believe, has no bounds,” Jason Riley added. “I’d like to sincerely thank Metod and Marie of Azure Racing, Groupe Touchette Pirelli and all our sponsors, as well as the Nissan Micra Cup team, for helping make this happen. It’s going to be an incredible season.”
More information and the complete list of drivers who will participate in what will be an exceptional season of the Nissan Micra Cup will be provided soon. In the meantime, please visit: www.nissan.ca/micracup.
To learn more about Austin, visit: racingwithautism.com