We have been sharing the story of how we intend to work with Isabelle Weall, a 14-year-old quadruple amputee, to make It possible for her to drive a race car.
Team founder Dave Player tells us how this will be possible….
We have developed revolutionary technology that is fitted to our cars to allow our disabled drivers to send different commands via fly-by-wire.
This means the different controls can be positioned anywhere. For example, the throttle paddle can be on the steering wheel or any other location that best works for that driver’s injuries and preferences.
For a double amputee or similar, who can’t use their legs, we set up the steering wheel as follows…
Throttle – right paddle
Brake – left paddle
Clutch – left thumb
Gear Up/Down – right thumb
PTT Radio – right or left thumb
This allows the driver to work all the controls on the car whilst both hands are always firmly gripping the steering wheel.
For Izzy, who is a quadruple amputee, we first need the expert support of Vaughan Cartwright from Real Equipe. He is the UK’s expert on bespoke seat inserts and seating for race cars.
Vaughan has made a seat insert moulded to Izzy’s body and the race seat in the car. This is important as it means Izzy is securely held in place when she is strapped in. It also ensures there are no pressure points that could make it uncomfortable, or even lead to pressure sores.
The other vital reason for using a seat insert is so the throttle and brake paddles can be fitted to a raised section between her legs. She will work these paddles by squeezing her left and right thighs inwards.
To steer and work the other controls, we contacted Matthew Hughes from Dorset Orthopaedic. Matthew is a leader in the field of prosthetics and together with his team, they will design and build two prosthetic arms for Izzy.
Her left arm will be fitted to the steering wheel with a special quick-release mechanism and designed to release if there is any snap-back of the steering wheel.
Her right arm will assist with steering but also work the gear up/down buttons, clutch and radio. The emergency manual brake will also be worked by her right arm.
The car has power steering which will help Izzy with steering but also helps mitigate snap-back of the steering wheel.
Race cars only need the clutch to start off and come to a halt – it’s not needed to change gears whilst driving.
Now that we have a basic design to start from, we need to make sure Izzy is comfortable with the system and can work it safely.
To achieve this, we contacted Nevil Slade from Vesaro Simulators. The safest and most effective way to develop a system that suits Izzy is to use a simulator.
The seat insert and steering wheel will be fitted to the Vesaro Simulator so testing can start, at home and in total safety.
The steering wheel of the simulator is one that has the same resistance and force-feedback that is produced on the steering wheel of an average race car. This is a key factor as Izzy will need to develop muscle-memory, strength and stamina to be able to steer for long periods of time, under race conditions.
Having a Vesaro Simulator at home will allow Izzy to tweak and test different set ups and components, and then put in the hours and hours of training until she is happy with the system.
With coaching and more testing, we can then decide when Izzy is ready for the next stage of the process.
Her seat insert and steering wheel will be fitted to one of our race cars, and with an instructor – and over-flowing with adrenaline – Izzy will take to the track, driving a race car for the first time.
She can then decide whether this is a sport she wants to explore further and we can look at options available to her. We have some interesting ideas but, for now, we need to focus on the first stages of the process.
We can’t wait to help her achieve this, also showing the world what is possible for disabled drivers.
Please help us make this a reality by donating to Izzy’s crowdfunding page – this will enable her to buy the simulator which is crucial to this project.