Race of Remembrance in UK brings veterans together to use motorsports for healing and recovery
Former Marine Staff Sgt. Liam Dwyer knows how to win. He won a Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Street Tuner race with Tom Long on Memorial Day weekend in 2014 and another the following season with Andrew Carbonell at Laguna Seca. But his latest race wasn’t so much about winning as it was about healing.
“The Race of Remembrance has brought a lot of memories back to me and honestly changed who I am a little bit,” says Dwyer, who lost a leg and suffered multiple other injuries in an improvised explosive device attack in Afghanistan. “It’s not about racing, it’s about remembering those who have served and using racing as a tool to help with your recovery. I went over there with Operation Motorsport, with a bunch of other veterans from Canada and Great Britain and the United States, to team build and use this race as a way to help us recover.”
The endurance race, which was run Nov. 10-11, is put on by UK organization Mission Motorsport. It’s a 12-hour race broken up into segments. Six hours on Saturday – “1,500 hours to 2,100 hours,” as Dwyer frames it – then restarted at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 11 – Veterans Day in the U.S., Armistice Day in Europe, and the anniversary of the day that World War I ended – then stopped again at 10:45.
“On November 11 at 11:11 a.m., we hold a moment of silence, prayer and remember those that we’ve lost,” Dwyer explains. “There was no way to describe it, honestly. But at that point there, the racing didn’t matter to me. Winning or losing didn’t matter to me. It’s hard to fathom because all you want to do is go out and be fastest and win the race. This was completely different. I was told this event will change me, but it’s one of those things you gloss over. Now that I’ve been through it, it’s truly eye opening. It brings back a lot of memories for the guys. Some of them have had a hard time with the memories that they’ve suppressed and come back out. I never would have believed in a week you could get as close to guys from the UK and Canada, where you open up to each other about things you’ve seen and gone through; things you would never open up to other people about.”
The team had its challenges in the race, and even getting to it. The Mazda MX-5 Cup car only got to the track from Belgium through a Herculean effort by former Mazda prototype driver Ben Devlin, who still does a lot of work with Mazda in the UK, Dwyer says. Devlin had to leave for the track in the wee hours of Friday morning after working on the car all day Thursday in order to be there before the first practice. Despite the challenges and a finishing position well down the order, Dwyer felt the effort was solid.
“Two of these guys, one was an amputee with a traumatic brain injury – Paul Vice, Royal Marines,” says Dwyer. “And Andy Jones, Royal Army, suffered a traumatic brain injury in a jump that went awry.
“We had a proper team, the drivers were very good and we all enjoyed each other. It was the common thread of suffering an injury that allowed us to bond instantly,” Dwyer says, adding, “I cannot thank Mazda enough for allowing me to drive one of their cars, for seeing what this is about, for helping to form a new relationship and to continue to aid myself in my recovery.”