A select group of wounded, injured and sick (WIS) veterans of the British Armed Forces will compete in the 2018 British GT Championship as part of new team Invictus Games Racing’s programme driving specially-designed Jaguar F-Type SVR GT4s, the car which was written about last year by DSC.
Invictus Games Racing is a collaboration between James Holder, Co-Founder of the successful clothing brand Superdry, and the Invictus Games Foundation. Holder has commissioned Jaguar’s Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) division to develop and build two bespoke F-TYPE SVR racing cars to GT4 specification for the Invictus Games Racing drivers to compete in.
The Invictus Games is an international sporting event for WIS Servicemen and women – both veterans and in active duty. The Games use the power of sport to inspire recovery, support rehabilitation and generate a wider understanding and respect for Armed Forces personnel around the world. The Invictus Games Foundation was established to manage the process of selecting the hosts of future games and overseeing their delivery, thus ensuring as many ‘wounded warriors’ as possible can benefit from the Games and opportunities that arise from them.
The Invictus Games Racing project is the vision of Superdry’s Holder, a motor racing fanatic who competed in the 2016 British GT Championship. During his debut season racing, he was inspired by watching the 2016 Invictus Games in Orlando and had the idea to create Invictus Games Racing.
The team’s mission is to give WIS servicemen or women the opportunity to experience the adrenaline of competitive racing and inspire others to embrace the ethos of the Invictus Games of triumph over adversity. Thanks to the bespoke cars, the wounded drivers will compete equally with their able-bodied counterparts.
Holder has funded the project himself and overseen the design and development of the cars to create Britain’s most unique motor racing team.
“Invictus Games Racing will enable ex-servicemen and women who have experienced physical or psychological trauma during service to compete against each other and the rest of the top-level racing field, in cars that are tailor-made for them,” said Holder. “We wanted to give these men and women the chance to compete in a professional racing competition with the established teams.
“Motor racing is often seen as elitist and our vision is to open the sport up to all wounded, injured and sick service personnel supported by the Invictus Games Foundation – including their families – through the race team itself and with exclusive Invictus Games Racing ‘experience events’.
“As well as representing their incredible profession, the drivers will be an inspiration and a sign of empowerment to those who have been wounded, injured or become sick during or as a direct result of their service.
“Over the last six months leading experts Mission Motorsport have held trials to identify and train four drivers from the Armed Forces best suited and most likely to gain personally from this experience. We have worked closely with Jaguar to construct GT4-specification supercars that accommodate each individual driver’s needs and style.
“Our drivers have overcome adversity in the face of injury, shown fierce ambitions in life and possess an incredible drive to succeed. They are perfectly suited for this sport which gives them an outlet for their ambitions. As well as racing against the other GT teams, they will also battle against each other for position and personal pride – like any other racing team.
“We are not under any illusions. I know personally how difficult this level of racing is and we’re a brand-new team starting out. In the first season we will primarily be competing between each of our own cars but we will take every opportunity to finish as high up the pack as humanly possible in every race. Our shared desire and goal is to ultimately win races.
“This dream won’t happen overnight but during the journey I can promise fans that we will have inspirational drivers, great stories, innovative technology and the coolest looking and sounding cars on the circuit.”
Today’s launch saw the full six-man team, plus one of the Jaguar supercars, revealed at the Racing Car Show at Birmingham NEC. The four drivers from the armed forces will be partnered and mentored by two professional drivers in the British GT Championships, as is protocol in the series.
Professional driver Jason Wolfe will mentor Ben Norfolk and Basil Rawlinson in Car 22, with Matthew George doing the same for Steve McCulley and Paul Vice in Car 44. The team will then spend the beginning of 2018 training ahead of the British GT season – starting on 31 March 2018 at Oulton Park.
South African-born Basil Rawlinson joined the 2nd Battalion Parachute Regiment in 2009, before serving on an operational tour of Afghanistan between 2010-2011. A Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and several degenerative discs in his back saw him placed on medical leave before being fully discharged in August 2014. He now lives in Leamington Spa having secured an engineering role at Jaguar Land Rover.
Ben Norfolk, who lives in Hampshire, served on several operational tours to Iraq and Afghanistan as a Royal Airforce Sergeant. In 2008, he assisted with a multiple casualty recovery at Camp Bastion. The desperate scenes that Ben witnessed that day reshaped his life. The events culminated in complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD), anxiety and depression. He was medically discharged from the RAF in November 2017.
By 2011 Royal Marines Commando Paul Vice MC was on his fourth tour of Afghanistan. On foot patrol in Helmand Province, he stepped on a command wire Improvised Explosive Device (IED) which detonated underneath his Section. He suffered a traumatic brain injury resulting in paralysis of his right arm. More than 400 pieces of shrapnel were removed from his body by surgeons before a below-knee amputation followed. Undeterred, Paul, who now lives in Exeter, went on to become the most successful male athlete at the 2016 Invictus Games winning seven medals, including two golds.