24-year-old James Whitley lives in Eastbourne and is originally from Northern Ireland. James was born without fingers and has undergone more than 30 operations to improve his hand function, many which were carried out before he was five. At the age of six he was involved in a serious boat accident when on holiday with his family in France which resulted in multiple broken bones, internal bleeding and months in hospital.
After being in a wheelchair for almost a year, he was encouraged to contact the GB Paralympian ski team. He went along to a meeting of the development squad and by the age of 10 was invited to join the team. At thirteen he was promoted to the Senior GB Elite Squad and began skiing in World Cup events. In 2014 at the age of 16 he was ranked number two in the World U18s and was selected to represent Great Britain at the Winter Paralympics in Sochi, then again in 2018 at the Winter Paralympics in Pyeongchang, and at four world championships. James remains number 5 in the world in super-combined slalom and super-G skiing.
Having been a passionate fan of cars and anything to do with racing since he was a child, James began to look for opportunities to start racing himself. He joined the team in 2021 and aims to compete for the first in the team’s BMW M240i in 2022.
“I’ve discovered over the years, that each apparent set back and disaster has only served to re-double my determination to overcome obstacles and to turn them into something positive
“Having a disability has often meant that people would give me sympathy and be really surprised when I’ve been able to perform as well as or better than an able-bodied person, and it just pushes me on to want to be the fastest.
“I’ve always found adrenaline and speed to be an amazing source of stress-relief and having been obsessed with cars since I was a child, I was counting the days before I could get behind the wheel, and was go-karting when I could barely see over one!
“I’ve been attending track days with my own car for a couple of years but I’ve never raced and I’m so excited to get on the race track competitively for the first time. Thanks to ski racing, I have an athlete’s mindset and an eye for the racing line so I know I have as much chance as success as anyone else on the grid.
“For me, it’s about attention to detail and finding the marginal gains that will add up to a real advantage. I’m 100% committed to this new challenge and every race will be about pushing for the podium. Longer term, I want to be with the team at Le Mans and there’s no reason why we can’t get there and be seriously competitive.”