Motorsport takes centre stage in Military Muscle inside Pathfinder International, with editor Mal Robinson catching up with R1 Race Drivers and Veterans, Warren McKinlay and Martyn Compton.
As ever, tell us a little about your military career…
Warren: “I was a recovery mechanic in the REME, I served from 1999 to 2006, I did a peacekeeping tour in Bosnia and I was medically discharged in 2006 after a motorbike accident from which I received a brain injury.
As a result of the brain injury I suffered from something called Cotard’s Syndrome which basically meant that I believed that I had died in the motorbike accident for 18 months after. I only found out four or five years ago about it and how it is a rare condition.”
Martyn: “I joined the Household Cavalry in 2000 and I did my first tour of Afghanistan in 2006 whilst with D Squadron and I was hit on August 1 by an IED. It was an ambush basically. They’d been there for two weeks, and they’d set up a full-on ambush for the whole squadron to drive into.
I was the lucky one really. I managed to get out, three guys who were in my wagon unfortunately didn’t. When the IED went off, it basically tore the wagon in half and they then shot rocket grenades at me and as I got out of that, they also shot me twice.
I woke up four months later having sustained 75% burns to my body.
I went through Headley Court and officially got out in 2014.”
How did you get into racing?
Martyn: “Going through Headley Court four years in I was diagnosed with PTSD and for four years I was having surgery and being fixed at Headley Court and it went on like that for four years and eventually it kind of got to me and at that point I was introduced to Go-Karting and it was a way of me getting out of Headley Court for a bit and also see guys who had gone through similar.
So, I started racing Go Karts and it took the natural line of wanting to go faster and the next step up was racing cars.”
Warren: “I went pretty much the same route as Martyn really. When I was discharged in 2006 there was nothing like there is today. Help for Heroes didn’t exist or none of the other motorsport charities. That all started from 2007 onwards, I was basically nearly ten years out of the Army before I was approached by the same military Go Kart charity, Kartforce who Martyn had been racing with.
I had no intention of doing any racing. I always had a sort of interest in watching racing, but no real intention of being a race driver, even to the point where I turned up on the first day to try out the Go Karting and I wanted to turn round and drive home, I was just so anxious about it all. I phoned my missus up and said “this is not for me, this is for guys who have been injured in service” she was just like, “well you’re there you might as well have a go” and I kicked everyone’s backsides (Martyn add because he wasn’t there at the time!) and things just snowballed from there. I really got into it and I didn’t realise how lost I was if you like. I had been out of complete military contact because when I discharged, there was mass deployments to Iraq and Afghan, so no one around, and to go Go Karting had brought back what I had been missing from the military – just being with the lads and having that bond again, the camaraderie and competition.
What I found it helped with, because of the head injury, I really suffered with mood control, I could go from hot to cold really quickly. The thing I found with race driving was it helped me focus and shield all of that out and just had pure concentration on driving.”
Martyn: “At the beginning of this year we set our own business up called Stand2 Motorsport with the intention of racing the Praga which we done last season. It was a step up to what we had previously raced. Our intention was to trail on our own as our own team, so we showed what we could do and now we have big things lined up for next season after we finished P3 in class in what was a very competitive field so we were really chuffed with how we had finished.”
Warren: “It was a learning year for us, it wasn’t our first year of racing, we’d been team mates for the last three or four years, but we’d always been racing with other teams and realised that their goals didn’t line up with what we wanted to do so we decided mid-way through 2019 that we were going to set up and go alone.
This year in the Praga is massively different car to what we have been driving before it is basically like a baby Le Mans protype car, it carries so much speed through the corners. It is actually a really tricky car to learn to drive because you have the mechanical grip of the tyre, so if you go into a corner at sixty miles per hour, you will get around the corner with the mechanical grip of the tyre. If you go around the corner at seventy miles per hour, you’ll crash because you are going too fast for the mechanical grip, but you are not going fast enough for the aero dynamics to work.
There is a real big mental barrier you’ve got to get over thinking “I drove around this corner at seventy and crashed, but I have been told if I drive around this corner at one hundred miles per hour I will get around it fine.” So that is the biggest learning curve but once you get over it, its like your face hurts when you get out because it is so awesome, you just want to go faster and faster and faster!”
And the aims for next season?
Warren: “In 2020 we purposely drove the Praga R1 S which is a naturally aspirated engine and to take the progression to the Praga R1 T, which is the same engine, but it is turbo charged. The naturally aspirated car runs about 230 brake horsepower and the turbo car runs about 400 brake horsepower. So our aim for next year is to follow this car through the process of turning it from non-turbo into a turbo and this should have a big benchmark on how much we have learnt and progressed with the car.”
Tell us about a little more about a famous sponsor of yours…
Martyn: “This came about through a story that I did. I was brought up in Exeter and his (Chris Martin) family still live there and he had been passed my story and Chris Martin supports what we do, and we wear the Coldplay badge.”
And how would you explain how to get into motor racing?
Warren: “That is actually one of the things we want to do as part of Stand2 Motorsport is offer serving and veterans to come along and join the team, see what is going on. Motorsport is this big shiny bubble that people look at and go wow I can’t get into that its inaccessible. But as you get into the sport everyone who is operating at our level is one big family. Everyone just wants to help each other, and it is a lot easier to get into once you know the direction you want to go.
The advice I’d give now is if they didn’t want to contact us is just go along to a racetrack see what it’s all about and speak to some of the teams. Everyone is always happy and willing to have a chat.”
How have Praga been with you?
Warren: “You say about working with Praga and they have been brilliant. They are 114 years old, they used to make trucks and mini tanks and they have been rebranded into producing hi level Go Karts and as such Praga is the perfect stepping stone from Go Karting to car racing.”
Read the entire issue of Pathfinder HERE!