MIDDLESBROUGH FC manager Steve McClaren and his players switched sports yesterday when they took to the race track.

McClaren and 28 members of the senior squad and the under-21s team, were at Teesside Autodrome, at South Bank, near Middlesbrough, to open the Chequered Flag Sports Caf.

The caf is part of a £500,000 development at the motorsports circuit, which is also being extended to 1.2 miles by March next year.

The track already attracts professional drivers from across the UK and Europe, and has hosted several rounds of the British National Kart Endurance Championships.

The improvements will enable the circuit to host Clubman car testing from the start of next season.

Graham Wilson, business development manager for circuit operator Teesside Karting, said: "The expansion is very exciting for us. The autodrome is a flagship project for the area and will increase tourism, as well as being a community facility.

"The track will be affordable and accessible to motor sports enthusiasts at the grassroots of the sport.

"It is tremendous to have the support of the local sportsmen and of Redcar and Cleveland Borough council."

Teesside Karting acquired the operation and management of the circuit the council in 1997.

Mayor Norah Cooney, who took part in the event, said: "I think it's an excellent facility and it can only raise the profile of the area. It's great that the footballers are here because it will help encourage children to get into karting in a safe environment."