In 2015, an opportunity arose through Mazda UK to build a very special car for Race of Remembrance. Just launched, the Mk4 MX-5 was an exciting car, and a pre-production prototype found its way into the MM workshops. The race car build team of MM guys was headed by James Webley, while Josh Green’s labour of love with the livery team produced something that took everyone’s breath away. Chris Harris the Top Gear journalist raced alongside Webley, Sam Parker and Matt Noakes through the night and the car entered the hearts of all who saw it.
Last year, the Mission Motorsport livery team of Chris Read, Chris Walker, Dan Elliott and Francis Stokes accepted an amazing challenge. The F-Type mounted on the wall of the Castle Bromwich plant, 35 feet up and visible from the M6 – heralds the work of the plant which was built to make Spitfires in World War 2. That heritage is continued to this day by a British workforce who produce British sports cars – the challenge was to make something that approached 2015’s tour de force. The core team of Read, Walker and Elliott have prototyped, designed, reprinted, gone back to the drawing board countless times, but they have succeeded – emphatically. Two cars have been wrapped – one on the side of the Castle Bromwich plant in situ and one car, a 600 Bhp F-Type SVR was unveiled at RoR 2017.
Statements from the team:
Former Royal Engineer Lance Corporal – Chris Read
Chris Read joined the Royal Engineers in 2005. Following basic training, he moved to Combat Engineer training and trade training as an Equipment Mechanic. His first posting as a young Sapper was to Germany from where, in 2007, he deployed on operational tour, to Iraq. Following a move back to the UK with his regiment, Chris deployed, in 2010 on OP HERRICK 12, working with the Afghan National Army (ANA) as well as establishing and building defensive compounds for the advancing troops and providing mechanical support to Area of Operations (Nad-e Ali), Helmand province.
Chris was promoted to Lance Corporal in 2012, posted to 23 Parachute Engineer Regiment, 16 Air Assault Brigade in Woodbridge, Suffolk and it is where he was subsequently injured, damaging his hips and back. His injuries were not easily resolved and after serving for just over 10 years Chris was discharged on medical grounds in December 2015, underwent surgery, moved to a new house 10 days later, became a father 2 months after that and has since undergone two further major operations which have put him out of action for much of 2016. Chris’ unwavering determination to recover and get fit has accelerated his recovery beyond any medical predictions and he is fanatical about positive proactive rehabilitation.
Chris was introduced to Mission Motorsport by an injured friend when he attended an invitational at Goodwood and through Mission Motorsport and generous support from Help For Heroes Chris became the Livery Manager with the Forces’ Motorsport Charity. He has been the project lead for the Jaguar F Pace Poppy Car which will be unveiled at this year’s Race of Remembrance and a replica of which hangs on the side of the JLR Manufacturing plant at Castle Bromwich.
“Mission Motorsport kept the light on when I was discharged from the military with multiple surgeries pending. They created an environment where I could carry out rehab and recovery, they gave me an opportunity to help others and pass on my knowledge and experience. The family-like environment that they provide, with like-minded people who many of them share similar experiences. The team do incredible things and I feel extremely grateful and privileged to work with and alongside the Mission Motorsport team and members”.
Former Guardsman Chris Walker – 1st Battalion The Irish Guards
Chris Walker joined the British Army in 2008, completing his basic training at the Infantry Training Centre Catterick, before joining his unit, the 1st Battalion The Irish Guards based at Victoria Barracks, Windsor.
One of Chris’ first duties was on parade as part of the famous Trooping of the Colour in 2009 at Horse Guards but like all Guardsman Chris has an operational role also and in preparing for this he took part in courses and exercises in the jungles of Brunei, the plains of Kenya and the rugged terrain of Bosnia before deploying on a very tough tour, Operation HERRICK 13 in Afghanistan in 2010.
After a break from operations, more public duties and training exercises, Chris did a further six-month UN tour in 2014 to Cyprus, working the Buffer Zone. Regrettably, for Chris, he was diagnosed with Bi-Polar Affective Disorder in 2016 and was granted a medical discharge in November 2016, after serving 8 years. Like many, Chris found looking for civilian employment, qualifying as a barber and working at a local Barbershop for a short period but it didn’t compare to life in the Guards.
Shortly before being discharged Chris attended a resettlement course, part of which was a visit to Mission Motorsport workshops where vehicle wrapping and livery really captured his imagination as something he could throw himself into. He is now an employee of Mission Motorsport as the lead livery technician, leading on such projects as the Royal British Legion Poppy car due to be unveiled at Race of Remembrance 2017, and at Jaguar Land Rover, Mazda, Rolls Royce, McLaren and most recently wrapping for the Expedition Solo Antarctic Crossing expedition for Ben Saunders. Chris says that being part of Mission Motorsport provides him with “moral support, employment, and a new focus on personal development”.
Former Lance Corporal Francis Stokes The Household Cavalry
Francis joined The Household Calvary in 2009 just 3 months after his 16th birthday. After joining, he spent two years based in Knightsbridge with the mounted side of the regiment. During this time, he worked on various State Visits, the Royal Wedding, and Trooping the Colour. In 2012, he moved to the armoured side of the regiment, where he drove light-armoured tanks. Whilst serving in the regiment, he took part in training exercises in Canada and spent time in Italy helping with the training of Italian troops. He also achieved a Level 2 NVQ in mechanical engineering.
Unfortunately, in 2015, Francis suffered a stroke whilst with his regiment in Brussels. The stroke affected his vision, meant that he was unable to drive, left him with limited sensation and weakness down one side of his body, and left him suffering from anxiety. Because of this, he was deemed unfit for service and was medically discharged at the end of March 2017 at only 24 years old. Like most soldiers, Francis joined with the expectation of serving for his full career, so his discharge was a big shock, and left him in a fragile state.
Francis first encountered Mission Motorsport in late 2015. After seeing a flyer for the Mission Motorsport Invitational during a visit to Tedworth House, Francis made the trip down to Goodwood Motor Circuit for the day. However, it wasn’t until almost a year later, in September 2016, that he properly engaged with the charity for the first time. Since engaging with Mission Motorsport, Francis has attended a number of different events, from the Invitational and the Anniversary events at Goodwood to spending the day at the Renault Sport Formula 1 factory. He has also been involved in the livery of vehicles.
Francis is in the midst of his NVQ Level 3 in Light Vehicle Maintenance, a course run by Mission Motorsport Training Manager, Ralph Hosier, at the Mission Motorsport workshops in Wantage, Oxfordshire. In November 2016, Francis attended the Race of Remembrance as part of the pit crew for one of the Mission Motorsport teams. The weekend provided Francis with valuable experience being part of a race team and counted as evidence towards his final Diploma. When he finishes the NVQ course, Francis hopes to use his NVQ to open doors to doing a degree in Motorsport Engineering. In the future, Francis hopes to pursue a career in motorsport, ideally in a race team.
According to Francis, since becoming involved with Mission Motorsport; “confidence in myself about going into a civilian workplace has increased, as well as my motivation to do work and the belief in myself that I can actually do it. It’s also really great being around other people in a similar situation to myself, and making friends that understand what I’m going through.”
Former Private Dan Elliott – 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh
Having completed a BSc and MSc in Computer Science Dan decided a short break was required and consequently joined the Army in 2010, passing his basic training at the Infantry Training Centre, Catterick, before joining his battalion, the 1st Royal Welsh, based in Chester. Like many infantry soldiers, it wasn’t long before Dan deployed on a tough tour to Afghanistan in 2012 on Operation HERRICK 16 on what he describes at a ‘very kinetic tour’, with contact with the enemy occurring virtually daily.
On return from Afghanistan Dan served for another three years but after suffering a personal tragedy he was medically discharged in 2015 owing to his mental health.
After leaving the Army Dan visited family in America over a period of 6 months before returning to the UK to seek further help for his condition. He attended a veterans’ course run by Help for Heroes in early 2016 and was introduced to Mission Motorsport as a result. In his time with the charity, he has spent time at the Nurburgring, taken part in multi-activity days at Thruxton and Goodwood as well as car control training and support crew for Race of Remembrance 2016.
Not wishing to return to IT, Dan initially thought that vehicle mechanics might capture his attention but following an open day at the charity’s headquarters and workshops, it was vehicle wrapping and livery that caught his eye.
He has thrown himself into wrapping, finding it both therapeutic but also challenging and he is currently working as contracted Livery Technician, a central figure in the stunning Poppy Car project that will be unveiled at this year’s Race of Remembrance. He has also worked on notable projects with JLR, Mazda, McLaren and Rolls Royce.
Most recently Dan attended a two-week work placement with JLR Research Department which he found interesting and insightful. He impressed them enough with his approach and attitude to be offered a role and which he is currently considering.
Of Dan’s time with Mission, he says: “Mission Motorsport reminds us that we aren’t on our own and the support is out there if you let them in. It makes you feel secure, valued and sets you up with the confidence needed for your journey ahead. Mission Motorsport has supported me throughout, giving me advice when needed and a push when required.”
The words of the poem “In Flanders Fields” – written in 1915 repeat across the car in grey, with poppies blossoming in red thanks to the pioneering use of polar reflective material and the team’s Roland Digital Graphics printer. The stunning design that changes in the light. This car is the centrepiece of RoR 2017, and as Safety Car it will lead the field out to begin the race, and it will be the car that collects the field for the service at 1045 on Sunday. It is a world class piece of livery design, but it is not just an exercise in press relations; Race of Remembrance has currency, it brings the words of the poem up to date – celebrating the 26 wounded, injured and sick who have entered second careers with Jaguar Land Rover through MM’s WIS placement scheme. It reflects the 750+ veterans who have found employment with JLR since 2015. For those who have laboured and pushed themselves to the limit, it has resonance, depth… meaning.
In Flanders Fields – BY JOHN MCCRAE, May 1915
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.