While veteran affairs is not the strongest suit of the United States despite the wave of patriotism that sweeps sporting events, the Veterans Racing Alliance aims to give them an opportunity to break into the world of off-road motorsport. The VRA is a new nonprofit organisation founded with the goal of supporting veterans through racing, and its programme includes plans to field cars in desert and short course championships beginning with a pair of cars in the Legacy Racing Association‘s Baja Nevada on 24 June. Another two will race in the MORE GC Lightning Freedom Cup on 2/3 July, followed by the legendary Crandon International Raceway World Championships on 1–5 September.
The project is overseen by retired United States Marine John McMurrin and UTV team owner Tim Fields. In a letter published Friday, McMurrin explained the VRA’s mission is “[t]o introduce veterans to and support veterans in the racing community by being a resource for sponsorship assistance, manpower coordination, and training in all aspects of racing team operations. All while providing the brotherhood/sisterhood, adrenaline therapy, and a new mission for those veterans that have been lacking it since their return to civilian life.”
The goals were outlined with three particular bullet points:
- Knowledge and Experience: “The two priceless things in any field. We will be using the experience in the alliance to bring veteran owned race programs to the next level or help where they are having issues. The nonprofit will own a race vehicle as a platform to put veterans new to racing in allowing them to experience and learn all the different tasks involved in racing. This will allow veterans mentoring, access to knowledge, and experience at a fraction of the cost and time it would normally take to gain.”
- Manpower Coordination: “The alliance is just that, an alliance of veterans and ambassadors that come together for events to help veterans race who would not be able to otherwise due to lack of manpower. VRA leaders will put together a network of manpower resources across the country that can be called on when a veteran needs some help running a race. The group comes together creating a team for that event and then goes back to their own program after. But not only does this help the veteran racing but it brings like-minded local veterans together who may never have met, creating local support networks and friendships.”
- Sponsorship Assistance: “VRA will reach out, doing work making inroads with companies, pit services, and race organizations, compiling an assistance network with the goal of decreasing the cost of racing and maintaining/building a race vehicle for that veteran. Anyone in the motorsports field knows how hard it can be to get the attention of a potential sponsor. VRA will work to decrease this by putting together a list of companies supporting our mission that will allow us to provide racer discounts or direct introductions to the sponsorship personnel of companies.”
“All along we are building and bringing together veterans creating a brotherhood/sisterhood that those veterans can lean on in their time of need mentally or physically,” continued McMurrin’s letter. “Giving those veterans a new positive mission to work towards even if they don’t own their own race program which provides a purpose in life that could be lacking. While of course, sitting in that race car seat, working that pit to get the car out fast, chasing the race car along the race course… providing a healthy controlled adrenaline therapy.”
The military and off-road racing tend to overlap, which is perhaps not a major surprise as combat vehicles frequently move on various types of terrain besides pavement. Some off-road events also have categories for military vehicles like the prestigious Mint 400 which boasts Vintage and Modern Military classes in its Limited race; personnel of the United States Armed Forces take part in the two divisions, such as the Army’s 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) in the 2022 edition. Warfighter Made, a charity that provides recreational therapy for veterans, has also fielded entries at the Mint 400 and is a partner of the VRA.
The VRA neither immediately revealed drivers (beyond them being veterans) nor which classes they would race in, though McMurrin later noted he had donated a Class 11 car that he was building to the programme. For the Baja Nevada, the VRA cars will serve as de facto team-mates to Fields’ Fields Motorsports UTV operation which has the T989 for Fields and McMurrin and the U929 for Rob Longfellow and Bill Baker.
Selecting Baja Nevada as the site of the VRA racing arm’s début will pose a challenge for its roster as the longest off-road race in the United States, taking place on a course that is over 650 miles long. Conversely, the Freedom Cup at Glen Helen Raceway and Crandon World Championship are short course events, the latter of which is billed as the most prestigious race in short course.