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A new motorsport project 'Team Kilo Foxtrot' boldly announces an impressive goal. Many of these goals, alas, turn out to be little more than pipe dreams, but some have the air of credibility and others have solid foundations already in place. Falling into the latter category is Team Kilo Foxtrot, which is aiming to take a team of ex-service personnel from Karting all the way to the Le Mans 24 Hours.

But it is the drivers of this new team that makes it remarkable, with their determination to succeed coming despite appalling injuries suffered in the line of duty and without their asking for anything other than a level playing field.

Kilo_Foxtrot_Team_Shot.jpg

Dave Player is the man behind the team, having previously founded Team KartForce as a place for very seriously injured service personnel to race. This video shows Dave, himself a wheelchair user and former serviceman, and Team KartForce in action on the indoor circuit:

 

The next chapter of the story begins, however, with a chance encounter on Facebook in August; “My wife Emma read that one of the KartForce guys had had his kit stolen from a circuit and she contacted Dave to offer him some of our spare ones – we’ve got loads here from all the teams we’ve worked with,” began OMS boss Steve Briggs. “It turned out that they’d already managed to get replacement kit, but this led to Emma talking to Dave about getting involved with supporting the team. I soon joined in the conversation and it was clear to me that they’d already reached the stage in Karting where there was nowhere else to go really, so I suggested that they look at racing cars instead.”

OMS (Online Motorsport Solutions) have a wealth of experience in motorsport, having been involved with Chamberlain Synergy for a decade and having managed the team for the past four years; a partnership that has yielded an LMES LMP2 championship in 2005 and runner up spot in LMES LMP1 in 2006, as well as back-to-back victories in Group C Racing in 2011, 2012 and 2013. They also worked with Greaves Motorsport from 2007 to 2012 (2011 LMP2 champions) and currently support Wessex Vehicles in Britcar, GT Cup and British GT.

“Racing allows these guys a chance to compete on the same level as anyone else,” continued Steve. “Those with hand injuries are always going to be at a disadvantage when it comes to sports that demand dexterity, while Martyn can’t go swimming because of the chlorine in the water. But the hand controls that Team Kart Force use, and the ones that we are developing for Team Kilo Foxtrot, enable the guys to go head-to-head with able-bodied drivers. And the adrenalin generated actually gives them some relief from the pain for quite some time, which is significant when you consider that some of them require medication eight to 10 times a day.”

So the team needed a car; but it wasn’t as simple as just going out and buying one, as Dave Player explained. “The guys who race with us have suffered major injuries during their service – amputations, spinal injuries, PTSD and missing digits; and Martyn has 75% burns – so they need assistance with their driving; and to that end we’re developing a special hand-control system, which will enable the driver to steer, throttle, brake and change gears all at the same time.

Kilo_Foxtrot_Hand_Controls.jpg

” Hand-controls already exist in motorsport, but these are all specific to a particular driver. What’s unique about our system is that they need to be used by guys with different injuries in an endurance environment. One of our guys has lost his right thumb, while another has only his middle finger on his left hand and another lost the top half of all his fingers; so the system has to be able to cater to all their individual demands. KartForce has already taken part in 24 hour kart races with adapted karts, so it’s now a case of working towards the same in race cars.”

You can read the biographies of some of the KartForce drivers – here.

Six of the Team Kart Force drivers (out of some 25 who have raced in karts) have acquired their National B licences and will be going on to race with Kilo Foxtrot in 2014. “We haven’t yet confirmed our racing program for next year, but the best fit for us is Britcar and we’ve already had talks with James Tucker about entering,” said Dave. “The number of drivers at each race will depend on the length of the races, but we’re hoping that by the end of the season some of them will have acquired enough signatures to upgrade their licences so that we can look at doing races like the Barcelona 24.”

While the stated aim is to be the first team of only injured troops to race in the Le Mans 24 Hours, there is a long way to go yet before that happens. “We need to be realistic about timescales,” said Steve. “OMS have plenty of experience at Le Mans and on the International stage, but we won’t be prepping and running the car; so as well as getting the drivers up to speed in the car, we also have to help make sure that the team is developed to the required level . At the moment, we’re looking no further than competing in the Creventic series and then we’ll take it from there.”

So which car will Kilo Foxtrot be using? “We needed a car to install and test the hand controls in, so I put the word around that I needed to borrow one for that purpose,” said Steve. “Ian Carvell quickly responded with the wonderful offer of the use of his Jaguar XF-S for both testing and racing.” The Jaguar was the car that gave Carvell Motorsport – Rob Carvell, Nathan Freke and Colin White – the D3T class win in the 2012 Nürburgring 24 Hours, so comes with its own endurance heritage.

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“The car will be prepped at Ian’s workshops and we’re hoping to install the hand controls and begin testing before the end of the year, said Steve.”

While the hand controls are being developed by OMS, some backing is being provided by The Douglas Bader Foundation, which exists to advance and promote the physical, mental and spiritual welfare of persons who are without one or more limbs, or otherwise physically disabled; and it turns out that there is a fitting link to the legendary fighter ace himself; “The Jaguar was built in the same factory that used to build Spitfires during the second world war,” said Dave. “So it’s entirely possible that Douglas Bader visited the site back in the day.”

Once trials of the installed control system are complete, testing will begin in earnest, with Dr Jonathan Palmer having offered the team the use of the Bedford Autodrome.

Have overtures already been made to the ACO regarding the Kilo Foxtrot drivers being allowed to drive? “Not yet – we’re at such an early stage in the project that this isn’t yet a consideration,” said Steve. “But there are precedents: Paul Drayson proved that only having one eye wasn’t an obstacle to racing an LMP1 and Jean de Pourtales raced the Kruse Schiller Lola at Le Mans with a specially-adapted steering wheel due to his prosthetic left arm. I can’t see this being a major problem.”

Jean_De_Pourtales.jpg

“What you need to remember is that these guys have already faced challenges far beyond anything they are likely to experience on the race track,” added Dave. “When you’ve had to act and think while injured and under fire from the Taliban, very little else is going to bother you!”

One suspects that Douglas Bader would fully approve of what Team Kilo Foxtrot is setting out to achieve.

To learn more about Team KartForce, see – here

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