Rather than us, the account of our anniversary Experience day at Thruxton circuit is best told by Mission Motorsport and Help for Heroes beneficiary, George Pas. His rather brilliant blog, with pictures, is here: http://www.georgepas.co.uk/thruxton-circuit/
Today, (Thursday), was the first Birthday of a special charity that has been set up to help injured personnel recover and retrain, a charity who I have written about before and who I have a link to for their website on my links page….MISSION MOTORSPORT.
They were holding their Birthday celebration at one of the fastest race circuits in the UK.
Darren and I left my bungalow at around quarter to seven in the morning after a coffee and me having some breakfast. My Wife had checked that I had everything I would or may need during the day and when we were certain we were set for the day, we loaded me in to the Chucklebus and strapped me in, then finally we were on our way. The weather had taken a turn from cold to wet and whilst part of me was hoping that it would clear, the other part was kind of excited at the prospect of being driven round the track in the wet. When we arrived we had to sign in, this would allow us to be taken around the track in the cars. There was also a form which you could put your name on for a chat with one of the team, Adam, who endeavours to retrain and find employment for injured personnel, I wanted to take full advantage of this offer to talk to someone who knew which directions I could look at for getting back in to employment and so I made sure I signed the sheet.
Major James Cameron addressed those of us who had been fortunate enough to have applied in time for the Birthday party where he welcomed us and gave us some history of the circuit. He let us know how the day would run and introduced some of the team who would be driving, he told us a little about the personalities and which vehicles they would be in. They had a selection of cars which would be driving round the track for us to experience, by using different cars they could demonstrate to us how different they were.
He introduced the lovely lady who would help us with tea and coffee and who had a rather large selection of cakes.
It was a good opportunity to talk to other members of the Band of Brothers, I spoke to a few from Tedworth House and then spent some time in the afternoon talking with two members of the Royal Navy, Emma and Andy. A real pleasure to meet them both and spend time chatting.
I also finally met Ollie and Stacey from Help for Heroes. They e mail any offers that come along and are responsible for putting names in the hat and drawing them if there are too many applicants. They are lovely, really chatty and really interested when you are talking with them. It was nice to be able to put faces to the names and the voices. I have e mailed and spoken to them on the phone but this was the first time we had met.
The racing started and much as I wanted to get out on the track, I had to take the opportunity that had been given to speak about directions for future employment. The talk I had was brilliant, really informative and I left the room feeling confident that if an opportunity was to present itself to Mission Motorsport to help me, then I would also have their support. Thank You for the talk, it was really encouraging.
And so with my talk finished I spoke to James and he took me out for my first ever experience in a race car on a real racing circuit.
What an incredible experience, James talked me through every bend and straight, every line he was taking, when he was accelerating and braking. I could imagine myself carrying out the actions he was describing, and as he continued round the track I was picking which line I would take to see how similar it was. It took a while for me to get back out of the M3 in to my wheelchair as I haven’t got the technique cracked yet but with help from Darren I did it, then it was time for a cup of tea. Through the day there were more opportunities to go it other cars, as well as a hand control car. This especially interested me as I am hoping to receive a favourable reply for the mobility allowance extension which will mean I can get a car which will have hand controls, what better place to try out how I would cope with this method of driving than in an open area marked out by cones.
It was surprisingly easy to operate and gave reasonable feedback, I took a couple of goes round the cones to get used to it but it wasn’t long before I was driving harder.
We had a Birthday photo on the grid with some of the vehicles Mission Motorsport use, I don’t have the picture of all of us by the vehicles but I will post those at a later date if I get them.
I went out in a works car as well, this took a long time for me to get back out of as it was very very low, but again with Darren’s help and the offer of help from members of Mission Motorsport which we actually did not need, I managed to get back in to my wheelchair. It was a truly exhilarating experience with the car being pushed hard by the driver who was an injured serviceman that had been trained by Mission Motorsport to race and then was further helped by the charity as they found him a work placement, he now works for the company who had given the car for the day that he had just driven me in. It was a very surreal moment when, as I was struggling to exit the car, the driver said that his leg had fallen off as must have pressed the release button. I can honestly say that it is the first time I’ve heard that one!
There was also a rear wheel drive car that was being used to let people drive round a cone, sounds mundane but as an unfortunate side effect to this, the back end of the car would come out and as people were trying to control the car while continuing to go round the cone, it resulted in a kind of a drifting motion. It was in the auto test area to avoid any confusion that may suggest that any drifting was taking place!
Darren was fortunate enough to be invited to try a few vehicles which was nice. I have to rely on people driving me around at the moment and so it was great that he was able to experience the day in full. It would have been a shame for him to have been there all day watching, although he had already said that he was just happy to be there. All the same, he went out in some cars and really soaked up the whole racing experience.
We had an amazing day with Mission Motorsport who I first met at the Brit 24 at Silverstone. It was a real privilege to have spent their first Birthday with them doing what they do. I met some great people and had an absolute blast. Thanks to Sue for the good news that she gave me when she told me that I had been successful in my application to be a part of their special day, a really nice lady who again was a real pleasure to talk to. We left Thruxton at around quarter to five having had a full day of fun. Mission Motorsport is an extremely worthwhile charity, it is not just about racing cars around a track, it is about giving new skills keeping the team spirit and getting injured personnel retrained and hopefully resettled in to jobs within the motor or motorsport industry. Please check out their website, read about what James Cameron has created and the work that they do at Mission Motorsport. Their web address is on my links page, but just so you don’t have to look;
Thanks again to the Mission Motorsport team for an amazing day, I hope to see you again soon.