By now, most of us will be familiar of Aaron Morgan’s story and how he didn’t let a motocross accident in his teens stand in the way of pursuing his need for speed and getting involved with racing. Since then, he’s enjoyed many highs, becoming the youngest disabled person to achieve a National B Race Licence and competing as the only disabled driver in the BMW Compact Cup Championship. Indeed, his passion and determination are what led Dave Player, Team BRIT’s Founder and CEO, to recognise and scout Aaron in the first place.
Earlier this year, CDW was proud to announce its continued sponsorship of Aaron in the 2021 Britcar Endurance Championship. Over the past couple of months, we’ve been following Aaron’s races – often with bated breath – as he tears up the grid and competes in the Aston Martin V8 Vantage GT4 to give us another adrenaline-fuelled season.
Over the past couple of years Dave has become a mentor and friend to Aaron, which is why we thought it was about time to get to know the man behind the team and find out more about Team BRIT’s mission and the work it’s doing.
Now on that note, we’re passing the mic to Aaron to interview Dave Player. Over to you now Aaron…
First off, tell me about Team BRIT – the idea behind it and what we do?
Back in 2010, I set up a charity called KartForce to help injured military troops get into karting to support their rehabilitation and recovery. I developed a very simple set of hand controls that could be easily installed and removed from karts, and organised karting track events all over the country. The feedback was amazing. Veterans who missed the sense of camaraderie and adrenaline that service can bring were able to find a completely new way to focus and enjoy themselves. The impact this had on their wellbeing and mental health was incredible, and we were the subject of a clinical study and PhD by a professor at the University of Nottingham, which evidenced a positive link between motorsport and those living with mental health conditions or PTSD.
In 2015, some of the drivers said that they wanted to move on to more competitive car racing which led me to form Team BRIT. Back then, ‘BRIT’ stood for British Racing Injured Troops and all our drivers were ex-military. We developed the basic hand controls used in karts to become the world’s most advanced racing hand controls, and we continue to refine these today. In 2018, we opened our doors to any disabled drivers, and have grown in ways I could never have imagined.
Why did you decide to form Team BRIT?
I love a challenge and, being a wheelchair user after breaking my spine in an accident, I’ve spent years proving that disability does not need to signal the end of opportunity.
When the KartForce drivers suggested setting up a racing team, I couldn’t have been more behind it and, having worked within disability sport for a long time, I knew exactly what I needed to do get the team going. I love motorsport and I have a passion for equality and accessibility, so it was a no-brainer for me to put everything I could into creating something that would have a major impact on accessibility within one of the world’s most inaccessible sports.
Us Brits are renowned for putting everything behind mad and crazy challenges and I’m no exception, so the Le Mans target has become very important for me. I know it’s going to be hard and will take years of work, millions of pounds and a lot of support, but I have absolutely no doubt that we’ll get there.
You served as a Royal Engineer for the Army – how do you think that impacted your leadership style?
My determination means that I’m not fantastic at taking orders! I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the Army but I’m an independent, stubborn and sometimes obsessive go-getter so working for myself was the only way I could satisfy this!
That doesn’t mean I thrive on calling all the shots, it means I’m so passionate about my ideas that I often want things done quicker than the pace the rest of the world works at! As a leader, I surround myself with people that I know share my work ethic or take pride in everything they do and share a similar determination to succeed. Our team wouldn’t work as well as it does without that.
How do you keep the team motivated?
For racing drivers, the motivation is there every time they sit in the car and start the throttle. It’s an adrenaline rush and a thrill like no other, and our drivers know that the only way to keep on track, to progress in their championship and to get more seat time, is to work hard.
I made an early decision not to set Team BRIT up as a charity as I knew it would never work. Our drivers must be driven to succeed on and off the track. Motorsport is incredibly expensive and could never be sustained through charity donations. We work as a business, over delivering for our sponsors and partners, showing them the incredible impact their help has, not only on our team but on the wider industry. Drivers therefore work for their seats, and we provide them with incredible opportunities to race, supported by what I believe is the best race crew in the business.
On top of all this, we regularly share our story, our goal and our technology with others. We recently welcomed two young lads with cerebral palsy to our Dunsfold workshop to meet the team, try out our hand controls on our training simulator, and to go for a spin around the Top Gear track. Drivers such as Aaron spent time with them, explaining their own stories and how motorsport has become such a big part of their lives. The impact we can have on these young people is indescribable and this in itself is a huge motivator for our drivers and wider team. If we can inspire and motivate others to believe in their ability in the way we do, we’re doing something right.
Why is it important to create equal opportunities in motorsport for people with physical and psychological disabilities?
Equality is important in every sport and in every aspect of life.
Many doors are closed to disabled people for reasons that can be overcome with the correct thinking, innovation and determination. We’re living proof of that.
We’re the only organisation doing what we do and we’re sharing our technology and our thinking with anyone who is keen to make progress. This is the kind of collaboration we need to see across sport and throughout society to move towards real inclusion and equality.
What’s your personal goal for Team BRIT?
Nothing would make me happier than seeing our drivers in our car on the start line of Le Mans at the La Sarthe Circuit. It would be the epitome of years of work and progress and would be such a symbol of British engineering and determination.
Aside from that, I really want to make a long-term difference by creating a sustainable, accessible system within motorsport. The difference it makes to the drivers we support is incredible. So many people we meet would never imagine that a competitive sport such as motor racing would be an option for them, but in many cases it is. Smashing those barriers and opening doors for people is an amazing thing to do and I hope we do this for many more drivers to come.
How can sponsorships help Team BRIT achieve its mission to become the first ever all-disabled team to race in the Le Mans 24 hour?
Without sponsorship we will never get there. It’s as simple as that.
Having the support, belief and confidence of our sponsors is integral to who we are and what we achieve. We’re lucky to be supported by organisations that supply us with top of the range products, technology and supplies, and others that provide the financial support to keep us on track. By investing in us, they enable us to put the infrastructure in place to create the path we need to get to Le Mans. In return, we provide exposure, unique employee opportunities, networking introductions and branding like no other partnership. Year after year our sponsors come back to support us and I’m incredibly proud of that. We could not do what we do without them, and I look forward to the day I will be sending invitations to our sponsors to meet me in Le Mans!
Lastly, who is your racing hero and why
David Butler MBE.
David was injured as a young boy when he discovered an unexplored WWII bomb that left him a triple amputee. He had to battle all sorts of red tape and find ways that he could race competitively, without the help of the modern technology we have available today. He has raced in hundreds of events, from track to rally, and in the pioneer of disability motorsport. The work he did has paved the way for all disabled racing drivers today and none of what we are doing would have been possible without the battles he fought and won to make things happen.
What a colourful life you’ve led Dave! Thank you very much for talking with us and sharing your story. We’re so proud to be sponsoring the fantastic work you’re leading and we can’t wait to be invited one day to Le Mans and see Aaron in action – we know his work team will be cheering Team BRIT all the way!