Twelve months ago Major James Cameron competed in the Britcar 24 Hours, leading a team of Armed Forces personnel driving a Mazda MX5.
This weekend he will return for Silverstone at the head a Mission Motorsport team, again comprised of men and women of the UK’s Armed Forces. But this year it’s a little different.
Mission Motorsport, the group founded by a team of serving soldiers, officers and Motorsport professionals is now the Forces’ official motorsport charity, carrying the intention to help retrain and rehabilitate former services personnel through motorsport – not just on wheels, the charity also runs a P1 Offshore Powerboat team – with the aim to help them to second careers around racing and automotive industries
Cameron leads the team for the 2012 event, now running a Nissan 370z. In taking stints he is joined by experienced Nissan driver Chris Ward and three former soldiers who have taken to racing the Mission Motorsport banner – L/Cpl Martyn Coplestone, Tpr James Gillborn and Sgt Gary Dunning.
All three have served in either Afghanistan or Iraq, L/Cpl Copelston and Trooper Gillborn both suffering injuries due to IEDs in Afghanistan, the latter losing his leg due to the injuries he sustained.
Though Mission Motorsport he has been able to gain a race license – his first race only coming last month in the Britcar Production Cup at Snetterton. Sgt Dunning was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after returning home from Iraq. The 40-year-old then suffered extensive injuries in a motorcycle accident that caused multiple broken bones in his left leg, ankle and foot, as well as broken ribs and lung damage.
“I’m delighted to return to Silverstone for the 24 hour race with a Forces team, but with help and support we’ve been able to really push the boundaries of recovery and grown entirely new racing drivers, mechanics and support team from those injured on military operations,” said Cameron. “We are excited to fly the flag for the recovery services, and those who work so hard within it, but also to showcase just what our blokes can do – to the outside world, but also, importantly, to themselves.”
“These lads have made huge steps to come this far, despite astonishing setbacks and their example shows that success is possible – beyond injury. I’m immensely proud of what they have achieved. Our association with Nissan is important; they have continually demonstrated great innovation in developing motorsport talent and are clearly driven by a love of the sport. We hope to capitalise on their sporting success and experience, while Nissan’s position as a major UK employer makes us very excited about the vocational possibilities that the relationship brings.”
Though the team of drivers will attract most of the attention the team’s pit crew for the 24 Hours also includes several former soldiers working with Mission Motorsport. They will be led by Tony Compson, a veteran of the Falklands War who earlier this year, with Britcar 24 drivers Dunning and Gillborn served at Derek Bell’s pitcrew at the Le Mans Classic.
Bell’s work as a brand ambassador for Bentley allowed a number of individuals who have worked with Mission Motorsport to take up placements with the company while the Britcar 24 drivers to took tips in a racing masterclass from the endurance legend as part of a training regime that also took them to the simulators at Base Performance to learn the Silverstone track ahead of the big challenge this weekend.
“The Britcar 24 Hours is a massive challenge for us,” admits Maj. Cameron. “Especially when you consider one of the guys only took his ARDS test a couple of weeks ago. It’s fantastic to have Nissan as a partner in this as they have such a good track record of bringing people through the ranks with the pioneering GT Academy driver development programme. What we really love though is that Nissan is relishing the challenge just as much as we are and that this is only the beginning.”