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Weekly Edition - Publication date:- 2017-02-17

-en Southport & Mersey Reporter

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St Helens military survivor in journey to Le Mans with Team BRIT

A military veteran from St Helens in Lancashire who suffered extreme injuries whilst serving in Afghanistan will be joining a team of disabled troops in their journey to Le Mans.

Tony Williams 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.

Thursday February 16, the team has announced that insurance giant Brit Insurance ('Brit') will support them in a multi year deal that will kickstart their journey to the pinnacle of endurance motorsport.

At a launch event, the team is 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 4 drivers are all ex or serving troops that have sustained serious physical or mental injuries and are disabled.

Tony served as a Corporal in the Queen Alexandra Royal Army Nursing Corps. Whilst serving in Afghanistan in 2010 at the age of 26, Tony survived 2 grenade blasts before being shot 6 times, 3 weeks later, whilst giving life saving treatment to an injured soldier that had been shot.

During the attack, he was shot in the shoulder by a sniper whilst treating his comrade. Despite this, he returned to help the casualty nearest to him, against an order to wait out medical evacuation, and was shot 5 more times. 1 'critical shot' resulted in a broken hip, torn bowels and a broken spine, paralysing him from the waist down.

The initial prognosis was paraplegia and he was told he was unlikely to walk again. He was also told he had less than 5% chance of fathering children, was unlikely to regain full bladder function and had suffered severe nerve damage to his lower legs. He also sustained a mild traumatic brain injury by being hit in a grenade attack, with shrapnel embedded into his forehead.

Through determination, hard work and rehabilitation, Tony can now walk, although he has paralysis in his left leg and a drop foot, so uses a leg brace. He is also the proud father to 2 children.

Tony spent a year with the charity KartForce, of which Team BRIT is a branch, racing in 24hr races, such a British 24hrs, Le Mans, 24 hrs of Majorca, and smaller endurance races around the UK before being asked to the join the team.

Tony said:- "When I was injured, my whole world changed and so many opportunities were taken away from me. I had always been extremely active, and enjoyed skiing, rugby and hockey. With none of these things an option, I gained weight and became unfit. I had never considered motorsport before I got involved with KartForce and I'm so glad I gave it a go.  When I'm racing I forget about the pain I experience and the adrenaline rush I had always found in sport returns. I want to inspire other people who think they can't compete or enjoy sports such as this due to a disability, and most importantly, I want to make my children proud."

Tony's team mates are:-


► 24 year old Andy Searle from Torquay who lost both his legs, his right hip and 2 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.

► 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.

► year old Warren McKinlay from Braintree in Essex who was involved in a motorbike collision in 2005 whilst serving as a recovery mechanic in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. Warren suffered a broken back, broken pelvis and traumatic brain injury resulting in him suffering from 'walking corpse syndrome', making him believe he was dead and living in purgatory.

The drivers compete against able bodied drivers on a completely level playing field. Advanced hand control technology allows drivers with 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, 8 April 2017, at the opening race of the Fun Cup series, at Silverstone, UK.

 

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