Premium car manufacturer Infiniti, along with Support Our Paras Racing, have revealed their plans to enter the 2015 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship with a pair of NGTC Infiniti Q50 machines under the ‘Infiniti Support Our Paras Racing’ banner as they help raise funds and awareness for the charity.
The innovative not-for-profit team aim to help raise both awareness and funds for the ‘Support Our Paras’ charity, overseen by Team Principal Derek Palmer. The squad will consist of a number of injured Paratroopers who will work on the cars to prepare and maintain their maximum efficiency throughout the new season, as the Red Bull Racing Formula 1 backers invited themselves to the BTCC grid as a new marque.
“We’ve set ourselves a number of significant, but achievable targets,” Team Principal Palmer stated. “Of course we are aware of the challenges ahead of us, but with the united forces of The Paras and Infiniti, we believe we have the power to deliver results in the BTCC.”
The two NGTC Infiniti Q50 race cars will be driven by Richard Hawken and Derek Palmer Jnr, the former having won a trio of championships at club level and also tested a BTCC Toyota Avensis for Speedworks, both himself and Palmer Jnr from having raced successfully in Super Touring Cars in recent years.
Palmer Jnr, from Lanark, Zurich, has further race experience in Dutch Touring Cars, Historic Touring Cars, as well as FIA GT, British GT and European GT Championships, and said: “I’m extremely proud to be associated with the Parachute Regiment, honoured to work with, and be associated with, the guys and to be part of the team entering the BTCC. Infiniti’s aspirations perfectly align with those of the team.”
A delighted Hawken added his excitement to the thought of his first full adventure into BTCC in 2015, saying: “To have Infiniti support us in the BTCC is a dream come true.
“To know that I am doing something special, to raise the profile and awareness of the Support Our Paras Charity, is quite simply an honour and a privilege. These guys put their neck on the line for us every day in their normal duties. When they do get injured we should all collectively do what we can by way of a personal thank you and contribute to the charity, which helps to give them as normal-a-life as possible.”
Currently involved within the Red Bull Racing programme, Infiniti believe that the time was right to make a jump into the UK’s premier touring car series BTCC as a works manufacturer, and that the platform provided should aid their growth within the UK market.
Steve Oliver, Infiniti Regional Director for North Europe, commented: “To have an Infiniti on the starting grid in the BTCC next year will be an exciting event on its own, but to have the car represent the Parachute Regiment’s main charity makes it exceptionally worthwhile. Infiniti is establishing itself as a main player in the premium sector in the UK, with sales on the increase, a new design Centre in Paddington London and from next year we will manufacture the first Infiniti for Europe outside of Japan from the plant based in Sunderland.
“These race cars reinforce our commitment to the UK and provide an ideal platform to link together two truly British establishments, The Parachute Regiment and the BTCC.”
Fresh off the conclusion of a hard-fought 2014 season won by Northern Irishman Colin Turkington at Brands Hatch GP circuit, series boss Alan Gow said that the news of a new manufacturer is testament to the growing interest in the series, with record grids already achieved this season.
Gow said: “It’s fantastic to welcome a new manufacturer to the BTCC and particularly a premium brand such as Infiniti. There’s a great initiative behind the team too, with the ‘Support Our Paras’ charity being such a worthwhile cause. The record-breaking 2014 BTCC season concluded in fine style at Brands Hatch last weekend and the interest in the series continues to grow year-on-year. These entries from Infiniti are further testament to that and we look forward to welcoming the team to Britain’s best championship in 2015.”
The introduction of the new team coincides with the amalgamation of the two main Parachute Regiment charities. At the beginning of next year, the former Parachute Regiment Afghanistan Trust will merge with the Parachute Regiment Charity and operate under the new name ‘Support Our Paras’.
Colin Smith, CEO of Afghanistan Trust, and to-be Director of Operations for Support Our Paras charity, said: “I know the overall impact will be tremendous now that the team has finally launched. This is something totally different. It’s employing injured Paratroopers and they can eventually make a career out of this; that has never happened before.”