Team BRIT – a motor racing team of injured military troops, which includes Tony Williams from St Helens, shared its story with a future Paralympian swimmer as part of the second race of its season at Oulton Park in Chester.
Ethan Naisbitt, a 13-year-old amputee from Accrington, meting the team and supported them during the race.
Each of Team BRIT’s drivers are ex-military troops who have suffered serious injuries and are disabled. The team is aiming to be the first ever all-disabled team to compete at the Le Mans 24 hour endurance race.
By developing world-leading hand control technology, all four of the drivers, each with different disabilities, are able to drive the team’s car on a level playing field with able-bodied competitors.
Tony Williams from St Helens is just one of the drivers who has defied the odds, having suffered gunshot wounds whilst serving in Afghanistan. He was told he would never walk again and would never father children. He can now walk, is the proud father of two daughters and is part of the inspirational team.
On Saturday 6th May they competed in the second race of the Fun Cup UK Championship at Oulton Park in Chester
15-year-old Ethan had his leg amputated less than three days after birth and also a heart condition called aortic stenosis, a heart murmur, leakage from his left ventricle and a plug inserted into a heart valve. He is a keen member of the Pioneer 79 Swimming Club, which he joined when he was only eight, and was later talent spotted by the North West Disability Squad. He is now competing at the highest level, and took part in the international para swimming championships in Sheffield last week.
Team BRIT founder Dave Player hopes that the visit will inspire Ethan and other young people facing challenges to battle on against the odds and believe that anything is possible.
He said, “We’re delighted to have invite Ethan to the track this weekend. Each of our drivers have experienced extreme trauma through the injuries they sustained during their military service, and through Team BRIT, they are showing people what hard work and determination can achieve.
“I hope that by hearing the stories of our drivers and listening to the fascinating work of our team mechanics who adapt our cars to allow us to race, Ethan and others will be inspired to believe in their dreams, and to consider the world of motorsport as a hobby, career or passion.”
Making his debut in the Fun Cup was Andy Searle, a double amputee war veteran who could not compete at Silverstone due to injury. Andy was driving car 158 with teammate Tony Williams and guest driver Peter van Smirren.
Car 312 was driven by James Hill, Warren McKinlay and guest driver Tav Kirk.
Saturday’s practice and qualifying went well for both teams, with James Hill receiving a personal best lap time.
The Fun Cup’s random grid draw saw car 158 start 3rd and car 312 start 23rd for the 4-hour endurance race.
“The start of the 4-hour endurance race was chaotic” said Tav Kirk, “The track is very narrow therefore many cars are veering off track and causing yellow flags and safety cars to lead the race.”
The safety car was deployed periodically throughout the race due to various incidents. Unfortunately, both car 158 and 312 were involved in minor incidents on track during the first half of the race. This caused both cars to return to the pits for a quick repair and check and meant that the teams slowly dropped to the back of the grid.
Warren’s superb drive saw him climb the grid during his first stint. He added “The team dropped a few places during Tav’s first session on track. When I got into the car we were in 25th place. I gave it my all and made my way up the grid to get us to 18th. I’m really happy with that.”
With only an hour to go car 152 was force to retire to the pits with a mechanical error after an incident out on track. Tony said “We’re all devastated that we were unable to complete the race with 152 but this is how it goes in motor sport. We still managed a very good result which we, the team, are proud of.”
Car 152 finished 27th out of 32 cars. Andy said, “Although there were a few issues with the car, I’m happy with my debut Fun Cup performance and glad that I have my first race under my belt. I can’t wait until the next round at Brands Hatch next month.”
With only 40 minutes left of the race, James showed outstanding driver skill as he climbed further up the grid. Team 312 finished a fantastic 15th place. He said “It was agreat result for the team after a few incidents on track caused us to fall to the back of the grid. All drivers in 312 showed pure determination to do well but we couldn’t have done it without the fantastic mechanics and engineers at Plans Performance that look after our cars.”
Team BRIT is due to compete in the next round of the Fun Cup championship on the 3rd June at Brands Hatch.
Photos – David Archer, Kingsize Photography