Paralympians join Team BRIT as world-leading hand controls are unveiled

Team BRIT has revealed its new world-leading hand control technology at a track day which saw Paralympic champions joining them to test the controls.

The technology puts the team at the pinnacle of disability motorsport, using technology never seen in the industry to date to set the standards for disability racing.

The team held a training day at Bedford Autodrome yesterday, Monday 3rd April and were joined by gold medalist Paralympian and London Marathon champion David Weir CBE and Paralympian basketball player and TV presenter Ade Adepitan MBE. As extremely successful athletes and users of modified cars, David and Ade were invited to come and test the technology and to learn more about the team.

Team BRIT’s four drivers have all sustained serious injuries during their time in the military. Three of them are unable to drive a standard vehicle and so use advanced hand control technology installed in the team’s cars. The team has been developing a new version of this technology to keep them on a level playing field with able-bodied drivers, as they look to progress up the motorsports ladder, and the system has now been embedded in the cars ahead of the team’s race season beginning in April.

Team BRIT aims to be the first all-disabled team to compete in Le Mans, a feat they will achieve by progressing through race series, starting with the Fun Cup Championship beginning on April 8th.

The high tech system involves an electronic throttle, electronic clutch and electronic gear changing, which is common in motorsport, but the new system also introduces an extremely advanced system to brake electronically.

Team founder Dave Player and team mechanic Al Locke had been searching to find a technician who could bring their ideas for the advanced system to life and found Marko Mlakar, a specialist technician from Slovenia who had pioneered an H-box shifter kit and was keen to take the project on. Just four months after the initial email, Marko has taken the team’s specification and contributed towards developing the world’s most advanced hand controls that will work on any race car with a sequential gear box.

Marko has been involved in Motorsport for the last 20 years, specializing in motorsport electronics and paddle shifting. He successfully developed a unique paddle shifting system for an H-pattern gearbox for his own racing car then began his own business, MME Motorsport, which operates successfully all over the world.

Marko said: “The first time I talked to Dave I sensed the real passion behind his work and his team and it was only natural for me to join them – the hand controls became one of my favorite projects and it took us more than 500 hours to finish the prototype. Something that looked simple at the beginning, turned out to be far more challenging.

“We had mastered the sequential shifting and thanks to our previous experience in automated clutch systems we were able to build the clutch actuator pretty smoothly, but the brake system was a very complex issue. For safety, we had to add a manual backup handbrake, which in case of failure would allow the driver to stop safely. Then there was the actuated brake paddle on the steering wheel, as well as the manual foot brake. The first test didn’t work but we put our heads together with Chief Mechanic Al Locke and came to a solution that would be able to connect all of the above. And it worked.”

The team is keen to share this innovation with the motorsports world to encourage manufacturers of cars for disabled drivers to consider using the technology. Later this year, Dave Player will be presenting his work and the new technology to Brakenet, the UK’s national membership of leading experts in the field of braking technology for various sectors and participating in the Federation Internationale de L’automobile’s (FIA) international working group on disability.

Dave said: “Having the new hand controls installed in our cars and ready for our race season is a massive boost for the team. For a long time, I have known that the technology we currently use is lacking, and simple yet technologically very challenging changes were needed to improve the functions involved in hand control technology.

“A lot of people told us that the modification we needed was too difficult, but Marko took on the challenge with enthusiasm and has delivered exactly what we need to enable us to compete at a serious level. I hope that colleagues in the wider automotive industry will be interested in our development which will revolutionise the way in which disabled drivers can control their cars.”

David Weir CBE said: “I was delighted to be invited to meet the team and to learn more about the new hand controls they have developed. It’s so important that we continue to research and develop new technology to enable disabled athletes to compete at the highest level and Team BRIT are leading the way in this area when it comes to motorsport. I wish them all the success in the future.”