16-year-old Caleb McDuff, the UK’s only male Deaf racing driver, has joined Team BRIT – the world’s only competitive team of all-disabled drivers.
Caleb, who has dreams of becoming the first ever Deaf driver in Formula 1, already has a karting championship win under his belt, and is now looking to move up the racing ladder by becoming part of the team.
This year, he will be competing in the Britcar Trophy Championship, driving the team’s BMW 1 series, alongside fellow rookie driver Dom Shore, who has spina bifida and Hydrocephalus. Their car will be fitted with innovative hand control technology to enable them to drive together.
Picture: Dom Shore (left) and Caleb McDuff (right)
Caleb lives in Pontypool, South Wales, and is a student at Cwmbran High School, which has a specialist provision for Deaf students. He was diagnosed as Deaf when he was two years old, having suffered severe ear infections as a baby, but now has a moderate level of hearing thanks to cochlear implants.
When Caleb was fitted with cochlear implants, his parents were told that he should not participate in contact sports such as football and rugby, so his dad, Ian, began looking for other sports his son could enjoy. Inspired by Canadian Deaf racing driver Kris Martin, he bought Caleb a go-kart for Christmas when he was five and began supporting him in his new hobby – one that Ian had also enjoyed himself for many years.
Before long, Caleb was showing natural talent, and began competing in kart races. By 2019 he won the South Wales Karting Championship and came 3rd in the Super 1 National Championships in 2020, despite missing some races due to a crash.
Ian, who runs a vehicle repair business, built Caleb a racing car and they spent 2021 testing to get Caleb as much experience as possible at this higher stage of racing. In 2023 he competed in his first full year of car racing in the Junior Saloon Car Championship, finishing 18th overall out of 33 competitors and 8th in the rookie class. By the end of the season he was winning awards for the most overtakes.
Caleb was introduced to Team BRIT in 2023 as part of the team’s ‘SEB’ project, which looks to create new solutions for Deaf racing drivers.
Ian McDuff explains: “Drivers such as Caleb who wear cochlear implants struggle with wearing a racing helmet, because it creates pressure on the implants, making it really uncomfortable. Caleb often has to race without his implants in, which has been possible so far in the Junior Saloons, as it does not involve pit to car communications.
“The opportunity we have ahead of us with Team BRIT is incredible. Not only will Caleb be able to step up to more powerful cars, the team will also be working with innovation partners to develop new solutions for Caleb such as a ‘heads up display’ system, so that he can communicate easily with the crew. Until that happens, Caleb and the team have been working with plastics materials manufacturer, Neill’s Materials on the development of bespoke helmet liners to better fit around his implants.”
Caleb said: “When I was offered the chance to race with Team BRIT in the BMW, I couldn’t say yes quick enough. I know I’m never going to want to get out the car! It’s really exciting to be moving up to a BMW. It’s always been my dream to be a racing driver, and being part of the team means I’ll be learning more to get better and better. I’m really looking forward to being part of a team and also showing other Deaf people what is possible.”
Caleb will race for the first time on the 30th March at Donington Circuit.