The all-disabled crew of Team BRIT recently took their first British GT podium and has Le Mans, and much else besides, in their sights.
Words: Graham Keilloh, Photos: Jakob Ebrey & Ryan Cox
Back in late July, there was a landmark result in the British GT ‘flyaway race’ held at Spa-Francorchamps.
The Team BRIT McLaren 570S GT4 raced by Bobby Trundley and Aaron Morgan finished third in the GT4 contest and first in GT4 Pro-Am. It was the team’s first British GT class win and its first overall podium, achieved in its debut British GT campaign after expanding from Britcar.
It also wasn’t a result that owed to excessive attrition or similar; Trundley in his race-concluding stint held off then moved clear of none other than three-time Le Mans winner Darren Turner and, despite traction control problems, finished only 2.3 seconds behind second place.
And, as is increasingly well known, Team BRIT is no ordinary racing team. It’s an all-disabled squad – Trundley was diagnosed with severe autism as a child, while Morgan was left paraplegic following a motocross accident – and the team’s aim in 2024 is to be the first British all-disabled entry at Le Mans.
“It’s just been an incredible season so far,” Morgan tells Motorsport News. “Going into round one everybody within the team, Bobby and I and all the mechanics, knew it was going to be a huge step up from the racing we’ve done previously.
“But we’ve shown with every round we’ve been to this year we’re getting better and better and closer and closer to the frontrunners which culminated with [the Spa result]. I’m never going to forget that weekend, am I?
“Spa has really boosted the whole team. Maybe at the start of the season there was a bit of nerves, but now we’ve also achieved our maiden win, maiden podium, there’s a real belief in the team now, we’ve done it once so we can go out and do it again.”
The team’s commercial director Mike Scudamore agrees. “We always knew the standard was going to be high in British GT4, but it was exceptionally high,” he notes to MN. “We’re racing against the very best in the country. Which is good, if we’re going to get to Le Mans we have to test ourselves against the very best, so the fact that Darren Turner’s in our class and who is a Le Mans winner, there’s a great yardstick.
“Every race we’ve done we’ve improved, we find ways to make the pitstops better, smoother, make sure our processes are better. We’re really looking forward to what the future holds for Team BRIT.
“It’s been our most successful season so far. We’ve invested, we have a great crew here, they’ve progressed for the team as well. Most of the crew have been with us as we’ve gone through Britcar Trophy, British Endurance and then stepping up to British GT.”
The intended final step ahead of Team BRIT’s planned 2024 Le Mans entry is British GT’s frontrunning GT3 contest next season.
“That’s probably the natural progression for us,” Scudamore explains, “it very much depends on funding. It’s a big step change, we probably need about a half a million-pound jump in budget to be able to achieve that because we’ve got to be able to acquire a car, find the budget and run the car in addition to the funding we have from the drivers.
“And what we always like to do at Team BRIT is to do things properly. So, if we haven’t got the money to do things properly then I prefer not to do it, take a second season maybe in British GT or GT4 to be able to capitalise on the experience we’ve gained, get the drivers up to an even higher standard so when we are in position to make the leap to GT3 we’re in the strongest possible position for us to do so.”
In this ongoing pursuit of investment, racing in British GT certainly has helped the team’s profile. Morgan explains: “Competing in such a prestigious championship as British GT, the viewing figures are hell of a lot higher, the number of fans that attend each race is significantly higher than Britcar is, so that’s helped push the profile of the team up, now a lot more people have seen and heard of us, it’s really cool.
“British GT do pitlane autograph sessions, that’s really helped boost the outreach of the team just by more people hearing of us.
“It’s been great, every fan I’ve met this year has always been incredibly positive. A lot don’t realise, they see us out on the track, [say] ‘oh they’re doing really well’, and then you come into the pits and he’s in a wheelchair, in Bobby’s case he’s autistic, and it makes their appreciation for what we’re doing on the track a hell of a lot more. I tend to try and explain to people that I meet how I drive the car and then I say next time you see me out on the track just do it in your head, try and visualise how I’m actually controlling the car, and a lot of them go ‘it’s way above my head’, it’s quite funny.”
Scudamore adds: “One of the biggest differences I’ve found when approaching customers or companies now is they know who Team BRIT are, so it’s not like ‘Team BRIT, we’re a racing team but all our drivers are disabled’, and that’s fantastic testament to the work that goes on [at the team].” Team BRIT has featured recently on Blue Peter, Channel 4 and Sky News.
“It’s very difficult to go out into the marketplace to get sponsorship, so being part of Team BRIT certainly helps that,” Scudamore continues, “people have heard of Team BRIT now, they want to do the right thing, we help to position brands as leaders in disability positivity, all those things that are really important in the corporate world these days.
“Brands have budgets to spend on these kind of things but there’s also lots of other people with their hand out looking for them to be sponsored as well.
“One of the big positives when it comes to selling this opportunity, there’s nothing else like us. We’re not a charity, we make a big point about that, we don’t want to be treated any differently to any other race team, we don’t want to be given any special favours, we want to compete on a level playing field [with able-bodied people on track], and that goes the same from a commercial standpoint.”
Yet even getting to Le Mans won’t be the end of matters for Team BRIT. “It’s not a case of stopping there,” Scudamore says, “we want to be able to build a sustainable platform for disability motorsport that’s also self-sustaining.”
With the easing of Covid restrictions Team BRIT has reopened its academy. The academy’s initial phase is the equivalent of a Silverstone driving experience for an able-bodied person, wherein people visit the team’s base and get time on its simulator using Team BRIT’s specially designed hand controls, then they go out on track – the team’s HQ is right next to the famous Top Gear Dunsfold circuit – in its Volkswagen Polo that has exactly the same controls.
This fun day for the participant doubles as driver scouting for the team, as via these occasions it identifies who has the aptitude to take their racing further. Team BRIT offers a clear progression, first with its BMW 118i then the BMW M240i racing in Britcar Trophy. Then its Aston Martin GT4 in the British Endurance Championship, followed by the McLaren in British GT. As noted, the team’s seeking to add a couple of rungs above these too.
And in line with motorsport reality, it’s not only about the driving. Racing has to be paid for, often by the driver. And Team BRIT helps here too.
“Nothing’s for free, we don’t provide free racing,” Scudamore says, “that’s not particularly helpful for anybody, you need to be able to earn your space in our team.
“Our corporate sponsors help to subsidise the racing, provide the specialist equipment and technology for the cars, and then the drivers pay a subsidised fee to be able to take part. So, part of my role is working with the drivers to train them up and give them some real-world sponsorship experience so that they can go to market and try and find the support.
“Quite often with the drivers it might be local companies where they live, in their vicinity or they have family connections, and I’ll help them to monetise those opportunities. Because somebody might say I’d love to help, but ‘love to help’ might be I’ll come and hold your water bottle on a race weekend or it might say I want to give you 50 grand, so it’s trying to make sure that we maximise all of those opportunities for drivers, so they have the best chance of progressing.
“Because if you can get a sponsor early, and they have a great time, they’ll want to follow you through your career. Because let’s be honest, it starts cheaper at the bottom end and gets slightly more expensive at the top, so being able to work with the drivers to build confidence so they can go to market and find those backers makes a huge difference.”
Morgan for one is testament to the opportunities Team BRIT offers: “This year, round one was the halfway point of me being able bodied and then spending half my life in a wheelchair. So, if you told me 15-and-a-half years ago when I was lying on my hospital bed that, in this many years’ time, you’ll be racing a McLaren GT4 car in the biggest GT championship here in the UK, I wouldn’t have believed you. So then to follow that on and have the opportunity to race the GT3 car I just feel so lucky to be in this position.”
The world of motorsport is full of feel-good stories like this one, so we decided to put together a quick article highlighting five of the most successful disabled racing drivers in the world. Read it here!