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Amputee Soldier In His Motorsport Bid

David Birrell

David Birrell

Inspired by the story of former soldier Davie Birrell in the want2race driver competition earlier this year, the competition’s organisers and Ginetta have put the double below knee amputee through his ARDS Test, and donated an official Ginetta race suit in order to help him achieve his goal of becoming a racing driver.

Ginetta first met the former soldier at Blyton Park, after he entered the want2race competition in the hope of receiving a fully-funded drive in the Protyre Motorsport Ginetta GT5 Challenge at Donington Park on 5/6 October.

Whilst Birrell missed out on the overall prize, Ginetta and want2race were so impressed with Birrell’s performance, they decided to put him through his ARDS test, which took place at Donington Park last week, and he passed with a score of 100%.

Birrell said; “I was at home after the competition had ended when I got a call from Ben at want2race.  He said the judging panel and Ginetta team were so impressed with me, they wanted to award me with a prize. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing – want2race offered to sort my ARDS test and help me get my National B race licence and Ginetta have also given me a race suit – my first Nomex race suit.”

Lawrence Tomlinson, Chairman of Ginetta continued; “It’s always great to see someone overcome adversity to achieve their life goals and Ginetta were happy to support Davie on that journey. We have recently launched the Ginetta Racing Drivers Club which offers an accessible route into racing for novice drivers – so we hope this will be an avenue Davie will consider for 2014.”

The former soldier, who has served in Iraq, Northern Ireland and Afghanistan has long since held a passion for motorsport, enjoying karting and motocross from an early age, before he joined the army with the Black Watch Regiment at 17 years old.

Birrell’s life changed in 2010 as he started a six month tour of Afghanistan with 3SCOTS. Whilst on a routine patrol, Section Commander Birrell was giving orders to his men when his interpreter stood on an IED, killing him instantly and leaving Davie severely injured.

The wounds left the 2007 Army Champion Boxer a double below knee amputee, but Birrell wasn’t prepared to let this significant life change prevent him from living life to the full – revisiting his love for motorsport, Davie joined KartForce in September 2012.

Over the course of his first year as a racer, Birrell competed in over 60 kart races against some of UK’s top racing drivers in a specially adapted kart – controlled solely by hand – before he signed up for the Ginetta-backed want2race competition .

Drawn to the idea of being able to compete without hand controls, Birrell said; “The thought of progressing from karts to a Ginetta G40 was all the motivation I needed.  I had a new goal and nothing was going to stop me.”

After passing the karting qualification stage, Birrell fashioned a lightweight pair of prosthetic ‘racing legs’ with small size five feet so he could operate the pedals on the G40 as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Out of the 200 national entrants, Birrell made it through to the final eight, and although he wasn’t the overall winner, he had some fantastic feedback and comments from want2race instructor, and Michelin Ginetta GT SuperCup racer Rob Boston; “Davie was on it all day, and drove with as much style and feel as the other competitors who obviously had both legs. What an amazing effort.”

Want2race and Ginetta felt it appropriate to reward his efforts by putting him through his ARDS test and give him a race suit. Birrell now aims to use his National B racing licence to get on the grid in 2014, he concluded; “The phone has been ringing and I’m getting all sorts of very interesting invitations.  I haven’t had time to plan for 2014 but one thing is for sure – I’ll be racing. I need to sharpen my skills and start improving on everything I’ve achieved, and show everyone that you don’t need all your limbs to race. The sky is the limit!

There are so many avenues I could follow, and who knows – together with my friends in KartForce, maybe we could be the first team of injured troops to compete in the Le Mans 24hr. Ultimately I want to make my children proud of me.”