Last December, #RacingforHeroes was officially launched, a new motorsport initiative in collaboration with Help For Heroes that will feature cars competing across the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship package.
Five drivers will be representing #RacingforHeroes in five different championships this season: Josh Cook (BTCC), Zac Chapman (Ginetta GT4 Supercup), Josh Files (Porsche Carrera Cup GB), Jessica Hawkins (MSA Formula) and Tom Butler (Renault UK Clio Cup).
#RacingforHeroes enters the sport with two key aims. The first is to raise vital funds and awareness for the Help for Heroes charity, utilising commercial partnerships and the exposure motorsport brings to do so.
Secondly, the programme aims to provide opportunities, to both talented young drivers who suffer from a lack of funding and to military veterans who want to work in motorsport as part of their recovery and rehabilitation programmes.
TheCheckeredFlag.co.uk sat down with #RacingforHeroes founder Peter Thorpe at the recent Autosport International Show to find out some more about the initiative and its origins:
TCF: Firstly, how did the idea for #RacingforHeroes come about?
PT: “I’ve got a direct link to Help for Heroes, I sadly lost one of my best friends in Afghanistan in 2010. He was a Royal Engineer who unfortunately came across an IED, which was very sad.
“I’ve been involved in motorsport for a number of years, mainly on the sponsorship side of things, so I know how hard it is to get companies to let go of a load of cash without any real understanding of the value of what that cash is going to be.
“I started thinking, how can we make the whole process of sponsorship easier, and the way we were to do that was to offer more value and the way to offer more value at the moment is what’s known as CSR – Corporate Social Responsibility.
“I decided to do that by bringing in a charity, naturally Help for Heroes, and by doing so we can offer drivers and companies the fantastic opportunity to partner with a British military charity in British motorsport.
“I initially came up with the idea in the pub actually, I’d shut up early after a really bad day in the office, and there was a Help for Heroes magazine sitting on the bar. That got my thoughts going, ‘how can we put that on a race car’, whether it be through a sponsorship or a partnership.
“We had a think, pulled the idea apart, came up with Racing for Heroes and the rest is history, here we are now. I was surprised something like this hadn’t been done before, especially with Help for Heroes.”
TCF: How did you decide which drivers would be representing #RacingforHeroes?
PT: “I’ve worked with these drivers in the past, I like them, I know they’ve got good heads on them and I know they’re good drivers who have struggled with funding. At the end of the day, one thing I hate about this industry is that quality drivers are sat out in front of the TV watching other people race who have bigger pockets but aren’t as good. We’re giving these kids a chance which is nothing but a positive.
“As soon as I mentioned to all of them about Racing for Heroes, all five of them instantly brought into the idea and thought not only have we got an opportunity to go racing with the help of some funding, we’re doing it for a really worthy cause.
“They are obviously still representing themselves as an individual out there and their own careers are on the line, and they are representing their own sponsors, but on top of that they are now racing to raise funds and awareness for Help for Heroes and the support they provide for the wounded, injured and sick veterans.”
TCF: You’re coming into the BTCC package this season across five different championships, what were the thoughts behind that move?
PT: “It’s again about offering a real value of marketable opportunity for a company getting involved. We’re standing around a couple of race cars now and you can see logos across the side of them. I know for instance, a main logo across the side of a touring car will probably cost around £300,000, for say one or two cars and drivers.
“With us, that money can be split across five cars, five drivers and five championships. In terms of time on a TOCA weekend, our partners’ logos will be live on track for thirteen and a half hours, whereas for the same money on a touring car you get two hours, so the exposure value is there to see.”
TCF: What level of commercial backing do you have at the moment?
PT: “It’s going to be a constant search for additional commercial partners, but we’re in a position of luxury at the moment where we have a number of global brands wanting to be involved. It’s all about picking the right brands for us, those that are a good match with Help for Heroes, those that don’t work in an industry that conflicts with the charity for example.”
TCF: What’s the long term hopes for the programme? How do plan to maintain and evolve the Racing for Heroes brand?
PT: “There is no relevant conflict at the moment that Help for Heroes are directly backing, but what we’re trying to do is install the knowledge into people that these guys who have gone out and fought for our country, they have been shot at, they have been injured and they are back in the UK now going through a recovery and rehabilitation process. They need that support today, tomorrow, next week, next month, they still need that support in five, ten years time, for the rest of their lives.
“That’s why we’re trying to put together a project with no shelf life and we’re doing that a number of different ways. The five drivers and the five championships opens our remit into a Racing for Heroes academy which we’re launching soon. We will have a pool of veteran drivers and a pool of non-veteran drivers racing in low formula, even down in karting, who will feed the team as we go through.
“We’ve obviously already got some severe talent already in the team, Josh Cook is a potential touring car champion, Josh Files is a potential Le Mans driver for example, and these guys will take Racing for Heroes with them as they move up the ladder to European racing, International racing etc. It will be a constant build in that sense, so there’s no real stop to it, no real scope as to how big it could grow.
“The overall goal of Racing for Heroes is to have a British Touring Car Championship team fully engineered, raced and mechaniced by military veterans coming from conflict zones. We’ve got backing from Alan Gow and we’re already in talks with a manufacturer who will be able to run the Racing for Heroes team in maybe three or four years time.
“What we’re doing at the moment is feeding veterans through the Racing for Heroes channels, working with Mission Motorsport, and training them and giving them jobs across all our championships. By the start of the season we will have already given eight or nine jobs to veterans, getting them straight into the action.”