On 17 September 1944, the plan devised by Montgomery to end the war by Christmas commenced, flying 35,000 US, Polish & British paratroopers 63 miles behind German lines in an attempt to capture with “thunder clap surprise” the bridges between Lommel in Belgium and Arnhem in Holland. To commemorate the 70th Anniversary, and to SUPPORT OUR PARAS the ‘Bricklayers Arms Troop’ from Stondon Massey, Essex undertook a sponsored75-mile march in memory of the soldiers who did not return, crossing each of the nine bridges during their five day route march.
Ten weeks after the official launch of Infiniti Support Our Paras Racing, which will contest the Dunlop British Touring Car Championship in 2015, the first two injured Paratroopers have joined the team in full-time employment.
Former Paratroopers, ex-Colour Sergeant Darren Fuller and ex-Corporal John Price, will now be based at the team’s newly refurbished HQ at Mallory Park in Leicestershire. Both will soon be joined by a further four ex-Paratroopers, who will also be employed by the team to work on, and prepare, the two NGTC Infiniti Q50 race cars.
“We’ve said all along that one of our primary priorities is to employ injured ex-Paras in our team to prepare and run the two race cars,” team principal Derek Palmer Snr explained. “We’ve now embarked on the first phase of achieving that. All the ex-Paras who will eventually be employed by the team have been undergoing intensive training by myself and crew chief Les White. As you’d expect, all the guys are quick learners and have impressed right through the training period. Now Darren and John are employed full-time on the team, and they’ll be followed in the next few weeks by the rest of the injured ex-Paras.”
Infiniti Support Our Paras Racing is the not-for-profit team which will help raise awareness of, and funds for, SUPPORT OUR PARAS, the official charity for The Parachute Regiment. The latest development by the team was understandably welcomed by both Darren and John.
“After being medically discharged from the Army due to injuries, I was uncertain of what the future held for me,” John explained, “so when the opportunity arose to work full time for Infiniti Support Our Paras Racing came up it was like a dream come true. It’s made the future for me and my family secure doing a job I love. I was a trained mechanic before I joined the Army and although race cars are a different set-up to your average normal family car, in principal it’s still a car. Being part of the BTCC team is like being part of a massive family again. As Paratroopers, that’s the way we have always felt and that camaraderie brings people together and helps when you feel it’s all going wrong. It gives you the drive to pick yourself back up and crack on and get the job done. I’m looking forward to 2015 and all the challenges the racing will bring us.”
It was a sentiment backed by Darren, who believes the team’s commitment to employ injured ex-Paratroopers sends out a strong message.
“I hope what we are doing will send a great message to all the injured ex-Parachute Regiment soldiers,” Darren said. “Not only can you still achieve great things despite your injuries, but we as a team will be out there week-to-week raising awareness and funds for the SUPPORT OUR PARAS charity, which is there to help and support our wounded, financially and otherwise for years to come. There may come a day when we all need a bit of help and support, and the SUPPORT OUR PARAS charity aims to provide this.
“I’m hoping we will raise the profile of this charity to a level where there’s not one person from the Parachute Regiment who doesn’t know where to turn if they need any support, no matter how big or small their issue is.”
The team will unveil its latest Infiniti Support Our Paras Racing NGTC Q50, resplendent with a new eye-catching livery, at the Autosport International Show at Birmingham’s NEC.