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Former Athlete of the Week meets racing heroes

Last Updated Jun 5, 2017 at 6:12 pm EDT

A former CityNews Athlete of the Week, who is living with autism, met his racing heroes – and they’re big fans of his too.

Austin Riley was the Athlete of the Week three years ago, when he was 15 year old. He started racing karts when he was eight years old. At age 12 he was diagnosed with autism, but that didn’t stop him from pursuing his racing dream. Watch the video below or click here.

Instead, in 2013, his family decided to start the brand Racing with Autism, to raise awareness of the disorder.

Now Austin is 18 years old and a three-time go-karting champion. And these days, he’s not only racing go karts. When he was on tour in United Kingdom, Austin received a call from veteran driver Metod Topolnik and his wife Marie Christine Bédard telling him he would be a new driver for the 2017 Micra Cup season.

The Micra Cup is unique to Canada and extremely popular in Quebec. Drivers race Nissan Micras over six weekends events in Ontario and Quebec.

Topolnik and Bédard were intrigued by Austin’s story. Their son Thomas also has autism and they too are advocates for the disorder.

Austin has two Micra Cup races under his belt and his father, Jason Riley, says these experiences have positively changed his son.

“This kid, four years ago, couldn’t go into a store and order something by himself or go anywhere new,” Riley said.

“Meeting someone caused a great deal of anxiety and now you see him travelling the world and speaking in front of a thousand students in a school. That’s the tremendous growth that the spot of racing has given my son. It’s given him coping mechanisms he never would have had.”

Austin will be competing in this year’s Micra Cup, which runs from May to September.