16 Feb Injured Braintree soldier on a journey to Le Mans with Team BRIT
A military veteran from Braintree who suffered extreme injuries after a motorcycle crash will be joining a team of disabled troops in their journey to Le Mans.
Warren McKinlay is a driver for Team BRIT, a motor racing team of disabled ex troops – who are on the road to making sporting history thanks to a new corporate partnership. Team BRIT stands for British Racing Injured Troops.
Today, Thursday February 16th, the team has announced that insurance giant ‘Brit’ will support them in a multi-year deal that will kickstart their journey to the pinnacle of endurance motorsport.
At a launch event today, the team are also supported by patrons and Formula 1 legends, Damon Hill OBE and Johnny Herbert.
Team BRIT aims to be the first ever team of all-disabled drivers to compete in Le Mans in 2020, a feat they will achieve after progressing through racing series starting with the Fun Cup in 2017.
The team’s four drivers are all ex or serving troops that have sustained serious physical or mental injuries and are disabled.
Warren joined the army in 1999 when he was 19 years old. Whilst serving as a recovery mechanic based at RAF Honington in Suffolk, he was involved in a motorbike accident in May 2005 which left him with a broken back, pelvis and traumatic brain injury.
After being discharged from hospital, he was referred to Headley Court Military Rehabilitation Centre due to the significant change in his personality and emotions. He was diagnosed with Cotard’s Syndrome also known as ‘walking corpse syndrome’, as Warren believed he had died and was living in purgatory.
He believed he didn’t need to eat or communicate with his wife, and that the injured troops he saw in Headley Court were also dead.
He was medically discharged in 2006 and after a long recovery process he started his own business, which he later sold. He began racing with KartForce, which re-awoke his desire to race, allowing him to rediscover his competitive drive and determination, something he thought he had lost.
He lives with his wife Sarah and two children 11-year old Katie and five-year-old Frazer.
Warren said, “When people see me, they don’t expect me to suffer with a disability as the lasting effects of my accident are psychological.
“My brain injury means I suffer low motivation, low moods, anger and anxiety problems. It’s hard for me to concentrate on one single task, which makes it very hard for me to get things done. I struggle to process information given to me and get over loaded quite easily.
“Racing has given me an escape from this. As soon as I’m the car, all of these issues go away and my only focus is driving. I am 100% committed to the challenge we have set ourselves and hope that I can inspire other people with brain injuries or disabilities to try something new and see what they can achieve.”
Warren’s team mates are:
24-year-old Andy Searle from Torquay who lost both his legs, his right hip and two fingers after being hit by the blast of an IED in 2011. He was just 19 years old when serving with 1 Rifles in Afghanistan. His unit had been tasked with providing outer protection during the search of a village when he was hit by the explosion. To date, he has undergone more than 50 surgical operations.
32-year-old Tony Williams from St Helens in Lancashire, who was shot six times whilst serving as a medic in Afghanistan in 2010. Whilst giving life-saving treatment to an injured soldier he was attacked by gunfire and and suffered injuries including a broken hip, torn bowels and a broken spine, paralysing him from the waist down. Despite a prognosis of paraplegia and having less than 5% chance of fathering children, Tony can now walk and is the proud father to two children.
34-year-old Jimmy Hill from Bournemouth who was shot five times in the leg whilst serving in Afghanistan as a corporal in the Royal Marines. Jimmy has made a full recovery but lives with a semi-paralysed ‘dropped foot’. He is still serving in the marines but based at Headley Court Military Rehabilitation Centre.
The drivers compete against able-bodied drivers on a completely level playing field. Advanced hand control technology allows drivers who have injured legs or feet to compete.
The team is a branch of KartForce, a charity set up to inspire, challenge and motivate injured ex-troops through motorsport. It aims to show injured military personnel that they can achieve what they never thought possible, that they can compete at the highest level, and to equip them with a wide range of personal and professional skills through understanding the business of motorsport.
Team BRIT’s season begins on Saturday 8th April at the opening race of the Fun Cup series at Silverstone.