Premium car manufacturer Infiniti, along with Support Our Paras Racing, today revealed the car and team — to be known as 'Infiniti Support Our Paras Racing' — that will be entered into next season’s Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship.
The aim of the team is to specifically help raise awareness and funds for Support Our Paras, the official charity of The Parachute Regiment, one of the most iconic Regiments in the British Army.
The team, overseen by Team Principal Derek Palmer, will consist of a number of injured Paratroopers who will work on the cars to prepare them not only for race weekends, but also maintain their maximum efficiency throughout the hectic schedule of a BTCC season.
The team has also set itself the ultimate long-term goal of developing, training and ensuring an injured Paratrooper graduates through the racing ranks to pilot an Infiniti Support Our Paras Racing car in the future.
"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 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.”
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.”
The two NGTC Infiniti Q50 race cars will be driven by Richard Hawken (Walton-on-Thames) — who has won three championships at club level and tested for Speedworks in 2013 — and Derek Palmer Jnr (Lanark/Zurich). Both drivers have raced successfully in Super Touring Cars in recent years.
"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," said Palmer, who has race experience in Dutch Touring Cars, Historic Touring Cars, as well as FIA GT, British GT and European GT Championships. "Infiniti's aspirations perfectly align with those of the team.”
Hawken too is delighted to be making the step into Britain's biggest and most high-profile motorsport championship, the BTCC — which consists of ten race meetings at the UK's leading circuits, and 30 races — with Infiniti Support Our Paras Racing.
"To have Infiniti support us in the BTCC is a dream come true," he admitted. "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."
The new team, which has the non-financial, full backing of The Parachute Regiment, will ensure that much-needed funds are raised for the welfare and benevolence of injured Paras and their families.
Fundraising for the Armed Forces in the United Kingdom has dropped down 30-40% in the last two years because of the drawdown in Afghanistan. But the problem doesn't go away. The Parachute Regiment lost 26 soldiers during the campaign in Afghanistan, with more than 130 others wounded. The charity also looks after the families of the wounded and those who have lost their loved ones.
All profits generated by the Infiniti Support Our Paras Racing Team will be donated to the ‘Support Our Paras’ charity.
The team will be operating out of a newly-refurbished HQ at Mallory Park. The Leicestershire race circuit started life as Royal Air Force Station Kirkby Mallory, a standby landing ground during WWII before closing in 1947.
Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship’s, Series Director, Alan 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.” He continued, “these entries from Infiniti are further testament to that and we look forward to welcoming the team to Britain’s best championship in 2015.”