A Paralympian from Sussex competed in his first-ever competition with Team Brit last month (May 15) and claimed first place alongside his team-mate. James Whitley, who lives in Eastbourne, and Chris Overend attended the Britcar Trophy Championship at Snetterton, Norfolk, and took first place in what was James’ first race for the Brit team.
The Paralympian, who was born without fingers, has been running for as long as he can remember. He was invited to join the British Paralympian Ski Team at the age of 10, before being promoted to the senior GB Elite team at the age of 13.
As a child, James spent a lot of time in hospital following operations on his hands. He was also involved in a serious boating accident when he was six years old, which caused multiple broken bones and internal bleeding.
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The 24-year-old said: “I spent a lot of time with band-aids, having to help me eat, get dressed and all that stuff. I always wanted to be better to show it. in fact, just because my hands are the way they are, I can still be better than others.”
James started skiing in World Cup events as a teenager. In 2014, he was ranked world number two under-18 and was selected to represent Great Britain at the Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Pyeongchang. This year, James competed at Beijing 2022 where he finished sixth overall in the giant slalom.
The sports enthusiast, who has always been passionate about motor sports, made contact last year with Team Brit, a team which aims to become the first 100% disabled team to race in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The team helps people with physical and psychological difficulties to access motorsport and have the ability to compete.
Despite the setbacks he faced, the Paralympian devoted himself to motor racing, his inspirations being Formula 1 legends Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher. He trains every day on a simulator which helps him improve his riding technique and has a few track days each month with the team to prepare for upcoming races.
He said: “In almost any sport, if you want to do it and you’re willing to commit to it, then you can do anything. If you’re willing to stick with it, you can reach the top no matter what. happens. your handicap.”
Besides practicing car racing, James also attended Oxford Brookes University. He graduated last year and now spends his time working towards his future racing ambitions.
Reflecting on Team Brit’s aim to be the first fully disabled team to race at Le Mans, James said: “I would love to be one of the drivers. We now have a McLaren GT4 car and if I could race and hopefully get on the podium, that would be an incredible achievement for my team. That’s my number one goal right now.”
This month (June 4) James and the British team will race at Silverstone to hopefully secure another win. The British team believe their success at Snetterton has helped prepare the team for this next challenge.
James added: “Before you get in the car there are always nerves, there is always the danger factor and there is always the desire to impress the team and do their best. Crossing the line was a huge relief and we were so happy with how we did and how the weekend went, it was a weekend with lots of ups and downs but to bring it home was amazing.
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