Britain's most gruelling endurance race, the Britcar 24hr, took place last weekend proving a test of teamwork and endeavour for serving and ex-serving soldiers who entered the MX-5 Forces Car to raise the profile of five British Armed Forces Charities. Cheered on by representatives from the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment, Army Air Corps and RAF Typhoon Display Team and their chosen charities, the MX-5 production car 86 finished 10th in class and 24th overall out of 60 competitors, proving the skill and dedication of the team against purpose-built race cars.
The MX-5 Forces Car entered the Britcar 24hr in order to bring attention to five British Armed Forces charities; Help for Heroes, ABF 'The Soldiers Charity', The Forces Children's Trust, The Not Forgotten Association and Scotty's Little Soldiers. Joining the MX-5 Forces Car was the MX-5 GT race car and a second production MX-5 driven by media drivers.
Team Leader, Major James Cameron commented: "We've been privileged to race at the Britcar24hr to support our fallen, our wounded, and their families, many of whom attended the race weekend and through the generosity and support of our friends at Mazda, Jota Sport and Britcar we have helped to raise the profile of the charities involved. We also hope that we've demonstrated the qualities of teamwork and spirit that mark out a competitive endurance motor racing team."
Motorsport television presenter Tony Jardine commented: "I was teamed with three exceptional individuals in the car: Brigadier Mike Hickson, the Director of the Royal Logistic Corps; former Royal Signals Sergeant Will Browning, who is now a Metropolitan Police Officer and Major James Cameron of the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment, who led our team and was not only a talented racer, but was also cited for gallantry.
The Operational Honours list was announced whilst we were at Silverstone and we were all very proud when he was awarded a Mention in Despatches for his recent tour of Helmand." "Meanwhile, two of our pit team Trooper Will Maddern and Corporal Jason Hammell from the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment worked with amazing dexterity and commitment. Will had been wounded in an IED attack earlier in the year and his determined recovery and resilience is inspirational."
Major James Cameron of the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment started the race and set a good pace setting a lap time of 2 minutes, 40 seconds, gaining several places over the qualifying position of 52nd. Sgt Will Browning was second to drive the MX-5 Forces Car - a standard production MX-5 with the addition of safety equipment required for racing but with the same power and basic set-up found on the road car.
As night fell the MX-5 Forces Car was involved in a race incident that required considerable effort by the team to rebuild the front end and get the car back into the race. This setback took the car out of the race for 1 hour 20 minutes, but undeterred Brigadier Mike Hickson quickly got back on the pace, taking advantage of the car's frugality to put in 2.5 hours at the wheel.
The determination and concentration required through the night were exceptional, but the pace was unrelenting and the team recovered 19 places from 46th after the incident. Early Sunday morning Tony Jardine managed to set a new lap record for the team, whilst soldiers from the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment cheered the Forces Team on in the Mazda garage.
Tank Commander Sgt Matt Baldwin of the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment commented: "I was inundated with offers from my Regiment to go to Silverstone, which is testament to the respect the Serving members of the British Armed Forces have for these charities. At one time or another each of us has witnessed firsthand how they make the lives of those affected by conflict a little easier to bear. I was both humbled and proud to have been at the event."
Tony Jardine commented: "The MX-5 was a real surprise, it punched above its weight in all areas and it was fast, nimble and reliable." Major Cameron agreed: "The car handles so well it is just so much fun to race. It changes direction so easily and is vice less; so it is easy to keep out of trouble even in a mixed and fiercely competitive field."
Major James Cameron used a safety car period to fuel for another long run and set what proved to be the fastest lap of the race by either production spec MX-5s at 2 minutes, 37 seconds. Will followed, maintaining a blistering pace before a clear run to the finish by Brigadier Mike Hickson ensuring that the MX 5 Forces Car finished 24th overall and 10th in class having completed 475 laps and 1,741 miles in 24 hours.
Tony Jardine, who is the son of a Royal Navy pilot, reflected on the success of the Forces Team: ""I felt a very strong bond within our team. Whilst Mazda provided the over arching support for a fantastic programme, the soldiers present gave me an insight to their world of courage, determination and camaraderie."
Major George Bacon MBE, Head of Recruiting and Air Displays Manager for the Army Air Corps, organised for an Apache and Lynx helicopter to fly into Silverstone to support the race start: "It was a pleasure to support the Forces Team in raising awareness of the many injured servicemen undergoing rehabilitation. We hope that the Mazda Forces charities car's excellent track performance will motivate both the continuing generosity of the British people and inspire others to join the military."
Sgt Pete Carrington from the RAF Typhoon Display Team, who is sponsored by Mazda in 2011, added: "It was a privilege to be part of such as exciting event and the results show just what can be achieved through hardwork and endeavour. We are extremely grateful to everyone at Mazda for its support of the MX 5 Forces Car, which supported two of the Typhoon Team's chosen charities, The Forces Children's Trust and The Not Forgotten Association."
Mazda UK PR Director Graeme Fudge added: "To get the MX-5 Forces Car to the finish of a 24 hour race is a real testament to the excellent teamwork and dedication of the Forces Team in both driving skill and support in the pits, from Serving and ex-servicemen. We hope that Mazda has helped to raise the profile of the good work these charities do through the MX-5 Forces Team."
To donate to the charities go to //uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/forcesMX-5 or text 'Race24 £5' to 70070.