Ashley Archer, a former wheelchair racer from Barnet in London has been announced as the latest driver to join Team BRIT, as the team launches its Racing Academy.
The team consists of disabled drivers and aims to be the first ever all-disabled team to compete in the Le Mans 24 hour race. Last week, it announced the launch of its Racing Academy, offering any disabled driver with a full UK licence the chance to access race coaching and tuition, using the team’s world-leading hand control technology.
29-year-old Ashley was born with a condition called Arthro Gryposis Multiplex Congenita, causing muscle wastage from the waist down. His condition means that his hips are always in a seated position and he has a curved spine.
He underwent an operation to stretch his legs as a newborn, and was in a plaster cast from 6 months old to a year, being treated at Great Ormond Street Hospital. At the time, he was only the 7th person in the world to be diagnosed with the condition.
His mum was told that he wouldn’t be able to sit up, but she didn’t believe it and supported Ashley as he developed. He walked, wearing calipers until he was 24, and has since depended on a wheelchair.
In 2012, Ashley was inspired by the Paralympics and attended his local wheelchair racing club, the Harringey Wheelers. He was spotted by the club coaches who recognised his talent, and soon he had his own racing chair and his own coach. He began training on ‘A’ roads and in 2013 he competed in Stoke Mandeville in the 400m, 200m and 100m.
He was approached by David Weir’s coach, Jenny Archer, who invited him to come and train with David, before asking him to join the Weir, Archer Training Academy. He came second only to David in his first road race – the Westminster Mile in 2013, and held the title of third fastest in Great Britain for 2.5 years before retiring from the support due to a shoulder injury.
After learning of Ashley’s story, team Founder Dave Player invited him to the team’s base in Dunsfold Surrey, to be assessed as a rookie. Ashley spent time on the team’s top of the range simulator before trying out the team’s Racing Academy Volkswagen Polo.
Ashley will soon undertake his race licence test before competing in the BMW 116 Trophy from April. Last week he joined the team at a special Academy launch event, which was supported by Nicolas Hamilton.
Ashley says “I can’t wait to get on the track with Team BRIT. I’ve always had an over active brain and this new opportunity is providing me with the challenge that I need to keep me energised and focused.
“What I love the most about being part of the team, is that we’re not competing in a disability sport. We’re lining up against able-bodied drivers, being treated the same, and that’s everything I want to support and promote.
“I’m going to give it everything and hope that we’ll also be inspiring other people to try new things and consider getting involved in our Academy.”