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Meet Infiniti Support Our Paras Racing: Part 1 – The Drivers

Last week’s Autosport International Show was the first chance members of the public got to meet the new-for-2015 Infiniti Support Our Paras Racing squad and see the imposing Q50 and its new livery in the flesh. As a new manufacturer outfit in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship the unveiling understandably grabbed headlines, and btcc.net got the full story speaking to the drivers, Infiniti representatives and two injured paratroopers who have been recently employed to work in the team.

In part one of our feature on the team, we speak to two new drivers in the championship – Richard Hawken and Derek Palmer Jnr…

Are you excited to be a part of the new Infiniti Support Our Paras Racing project?

DP: “It’s a great honour for me to be a part of this. The project has come such a long way from where we began with the idea of what we wanted to do. To see what we’re achieving is really fantastic – we’re all learning together having started from scratch and we’re already quite far along in our preparation and looking forward to getting going.

“I couldn’t have even imagined it’d get to this point. Both Richard and myself have been there right from the very beginning putting together the resources that we needed to make this work. For me it was never about Formula 1 – I always wanted to be a touring car driver and I’m so excited that it’s happening.”

RH: “I’m like a kid in a sweet shop at the moment – it’s like the start of the season is here! So far I’ve only sat in the empty shell and imagined what it’s going to be like but I’m sure my imagination can’t even stretch to what the Infiniti is capable of and I can’t wait to get out there.“

Are you going to be doing any pre-season testing?

DP: “Yes, I’m really excited to get testing. I can’t wait to get on track and put some miles on the car, learning about it and getting quicker. It is going to be a challenge.”

RH: “I did a test with Speedworks back in 2013 driving the front-wheel-drive Toyota Avensis and really enjoyed spending the whole day at Snetterton, but I spent the first ten years of my career driving rear-wheel drive cars so I’m hoping some of that experience will come in handy! The car should be ready to roll very soon.”

With a huge grid of BTCC racers set for 2015 are you prepared for the challenges ahead?

RH: “There will be no surprises on that first weekend and I’ve asked the team to order plenty of body panels just in case! But I jest, in truth we’re going into it with wide open eyes – competing against a full grid of the best drivers in Europe – a lot of people say this is the best touring car championship in the world and I’d probably agree with them. I genuinely believe that the car is going to be excellent, we’ve got real engineering expertise in the team so it’s going to be great.

“I’d like to break into the top 15 – in this championship that is a real achievement and then go on from there.”

DP: “We took this task on under no illusions over what we’re up against. It is the most competitive touring car championship arguably in the world, certainly in the UK, but we know that and we’ve been preparing for that from the very beginning. We’ve got all the right ingredients to get the finished product, we just need to pull everything together. It’s not going to be an overnight success story, but I think we will go out there and do a very good job.”

You’ve just announced the first two injured paras who will be a part of your team – can you tell us a bit more about that?

RH: “I think there’s a want-to-be-para in every one of us and I think that is what’s going to capture the imagination of the public. For them they can almost be a part of the team by donating to the charity and making sure that some of these guys that come home injured are taken care of. That’s where Derek and I are coming from, we’ve just announced the first two guys that we’ve permanently employed in the team which is brilliant. There are going to be a lot more to be announced very soon.”

DP: “We wanted to structure it about the team – everyone is going to be learning together. We came up with the idea together – my dad was working with the parachute regiment on other projects and the idea started as a small seed and it’s bloomed into this incredibly exciting reality.”

Look out for Part 2 of our interviews where we speak to Infiniti’s General Manager for Performance and Innovation, Jerry Hardcastle.

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