Fast and furious fun as injured soldiers take a turn round Donington race track
ARMED services personnel switched one adrenaline-fuelled arena for another when they were treated to some high-speed laps of Donington Park.
About 50 serving and former forces members descended on the race circuit, near Castle Donington, for yesterday's Injured Troops Track Day.
The event was organised by Motorsport Endeavour and was held in conjunction with military charities Blind Veterans UK, Combat Stress, Hedley Court, Help for Heroes and Talking2Minds.
Many of those who took part in the day had experienced physical or mental injuries while in service.
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They completed laps of the circuit with an instructor and thrilled at high-speed passenger laps in a selection of supercars.
They also visited the Donington Grand Prix Collection, which houses the world's largest collection of grand prix racing cars.
Among those taking part was Captain Luke Sinnott, who two years ago lost both his legs from above the knee in a roadside bomb blast in Afghanistan.
Luke, 32, had volunteered to search an area "saturated" with improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to protect his comrades.
He said: "Days like the one we had at Donington are brilliant. They show us many different things – perhaps most of all how much people appreciate what we have done.
"It was also a great chance for injured soldiers from across the country to get together, share experiences and have a lot of fun."
Luke is no stranger to competition. He is a Paralympic sailor who, at the climax of the closing ceremony at London 2012, climbed a flagpole to unfurl the Union flag.
Also racing around was Lionel O'Connor, 28, who in 2006 lost his left leg to an IED while serving with the Royal Anglian regiment in Iraq.
He said: "I had a great day.
"It was a chance to cut loose and have some fun. I'd never been to Donington before – it is a fantastic track."
Motorsport Endeavour was founded in 2004 by Graham Raphael to give disabled people who enjoy cars the chance to develop their interests after injury.
For the last few years, it has been run solely to help injured soldiers in their rehabilitation.
In 1976, Graham suffered a broken neck while in India.
He said: "When you suffer a serious injury, more than anything else, it severely knocks your confidence.
"What we do is open the eyes of these injured soldiers to the possibilities. We try to build up their confidence again – which is crucial to their rehabilitation."
To make the day possible, a number of drivers and track officials had given up their time, including British Touring Car racers such as Chris James, Paul O'Neill, Tony Hughes and John Thorne, who took the injured soldiers around the Donington track in cars including a Maserati and an Audi R8.
Among those acting as marshals was Daz Vallis, 37, of Littleover, who served in the Royal Air Force for 12 years.
Daz, who has been volunteering as a marshal since 1997, said: "It was great talking to the participants and hearing their stories.
"But it was particularly nice to see them enjoying themselves."