SUPERBIKE champion Carl Fogarty swapped two wheels for four at the opening of a new multi-million pound Blackburn College building.
The Blackburn motorcycling legend was in his hometown at the launch of the college’s £5.6m Regional Automotive Technology Hub.
And, for the first time, the 49-year-old got behind the wheel of a Formula One car as he sampled the state-of-the-art equipment on offer at the 2,300 square metre facility.
Fogarty, the most successful World Superbike racer of all time, drove a simulated lap of the Italian track Monza before challenging guests to beat his time of one minute and 30 seconds.
The hub, which contains an auto-electrical bay, a rolling road, three mechanical workshops, a diagnostic lab and two computer rooms, will house around 350 students and 20 tutors.
College chairman Sir Bill Taylor, who unveiled a plaque at the Feilden Street building alongside former Blackburn with Darwen Council chief executive Phil Watson, called it ‘a worthy 21st century venue’.
Mr Watson said: “It’s essential we teach what is relevant to the jobs out there and so it will be important to involve local employers going forward.”
The college’s assistant principal for curriculum, STEM and apprenticeships, Chris Wright, said partners including Bowker BMW, Chorley Nissan, Blackburn Audi and Simpson’s Skoda would work to develop the courses on offer.
Mr Fogarty, who attended despite having to rush off to the Isle of Man, said:
“This is a fantastic facility, not just for Blackburn College but for the whole of East Lancashire.
“It’s great to have an amazing asset like this right on our doorstep - there was certainly nothing like this when I left school. Hopefully it will inspire people to pursue a career in the automotive industry.”