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Invictus takes to the Tarmac
You'll probably have heard of the Invictus Games - the multi-sport event created by Prince Harry to inspire recovery and support rehabilitation for wounded soldiers. For 2018, the Foundation has also taken to the tarmac, with the Invictus Games Racing motorsport team which competes in the British GT Championship. We spoke to their American driver, Jason Wolfe, about this unique, inspiring project.
Thank you Jason for answering these questions for us. First of all, can you tell us a bit about yourself - where are you from in the States, and how did you get into motor racing?
I am from a small town in Ohio and luckily just down the road from a major racing circuit, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. I got involved in racing from watching the movie Catch that Kid. One of the character's father owned a karting track and I thought it was the coolest thing ever! Once I saw that and gained the support of my family we started racing and never stopped.
Your current team, Invictus Games Racing, is a lot more than just a racing team - can you tell us a bit about the project and what it entails, and how you got involved?
Invictus Games Racing is an awesome way to give back to the ones who gave for us. James Holder – co-founder of the Superdry clothing brand – really nailed this project when he decided he wanted to do more for the charity then just write a cheque. So, what the team does is take ex-servicemen who were wounded in combat in one way or another and puts the guys back into a team setting and seeks to help aide their recovery, in whatever area that may be. It could be they are missing a leg, or they have a less visible mental illness, for example. I got involved in this project basically by being an American with experience racing in Europe, along with having a very well connected manager in Nic Jonsson, who amazingly knows nearly everyone in the racing industry. Having an American driver was something they were looking for when developing this project and I am very thankful that was a bullet point on their list!
Your role at the team is also about more than just driving - how does it feel to also be mentoring your team mates (Ben Norfolk for the first half of this season, Basil Rawlinson for the second half)?
Being a driving mentor and coach for the guys is something that I thoroughly enjoy doing. The military is something that I personally have a lot of respect and support for, so being able to give back is important to me. It gives a whole new dimension to the race weekends, being able to see the progress in not only driving, but also in their personal recovery is very rewarding.
You're an American in a British team - as we all know, American English and British English can feel like totally different languages- how are you getting on communicating with your team?
That always makes the weekend entertaining! I couldn’t tell you how many times I say “what?” in a given day – this is mainly to Paul Vice MC though, who is one of the drivers! Other than that it goes pretty well. I think I have successfully converted my engineer, Nick Clipson, to calling “brake discs”, “brake rotors” – the correct term, obviously! Although, I am still struggling to convert him to saying hood and trunk...
The British GT Championship season is almost at its half way point, how has it developed for you so far, and what do you hope to achieve in the second half?
So far the Championship has been a learning curve for us all. Being in a brand new car and having only three of the Jaguar F-Type GT4 cars in existence, there is a lot to develop. This car has shown us it has a lot to offer and for the second half of the season I think well be able to show everyone else that as well.
One of the upcoming events is at Silverstone - have you raced there before, and how does it stack up against the other circuits during the season?
Silverstone is not a track I have been to previous to this year. But that goes for all of the tracks in the UK! We were able to do a test day at Silverstone and I really enjoyed the high speed and technical aspects of the track. I think it will make for a very eventful race.
Just before Silverstone, the Invictus Games Racing team are hosting a big event at the circuit with music, food and fun - as well as being a competitive team, how important is it to enjoy the experience, particularly for those servicemen and women involved in the team?
Having fun with what you do is always important but it makes it even more important when a couple of the guys are still very much in the recovery process. For them, learning how to wheel a GT car in a professional series is challenging so the moments where they can lighten up and have some fun are needed. At the end of the day this program is for them to enjoy and James and Charlotte Holder, along with David Appleby engineering are doing a great job at making that happen. The event will be a great day with opportunities to have a go in the car, so buy a ticket and come say hi!
How busy is your schedule, especially being an American with Transatlantic flying involved? Does it add an extra challenge to the experience?
Initally the schedule was extremely busy with testing so traveling back and forth was happening nearly every week for about two months. Going into it I thought it would be a challenge but it wasn’t so bad after all.
When you're in the UK, what else do you enjoy getting up to?
To be honest I haven’t done much in the UK. I come over to drive and that is really about all I do! Coming into the next race I will have a few days off, so with the Fiancée coming to that one I am sure we will get out and explore a bit!
Finally, what's the best thing about being Jason Wolfe?
I am surrounded by awesome people from family to the team. And I get to drive racecars professionally. Gotta love that!
On June 7th, at Silverstone, Invictus Games Racing are hosting a VIP party with the chance to be driven in one of their Jaguar GT4 cars. Buy tickets at: www.invictusgamesracing.com