Ware, Hertfordshire-based racing driver, Martin Rich, is set to fulfill a lifelong ambition by competing in this year’s famous Le Mans 24 Hours endurance race. He has been named as a member of the Lotus Jetalliance team that will see Lotus return to this historic event for the first time this century. And in case racing against some of the best teams and drivers in the world isn’t challenge enough, at the same time Martin has decided to try and raise the incredible sum of £100,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support in memory of his father.
The 37 year old said “Competing at Le Mans has been a lifelong dream for me and I can hardly believe that I will finally get a chance to see it come true. It is simply one of the world’s great motor races and the only one a non-professional still has a slim chance of getting to. And of course, for an Englishman, to do this as part of a Lotus backed team is just incredible. I can’t stop grinning every time I think about it!”
So why try and raise so much money for charity at the same time? “The fund raising is in memory of my dad, Michael, who died from Sarcoma cancer in September 2009. My childhood is littered with memories of going to races with him – everything from Formula 1 and what’s now the World Rally Championship, to stock car racing at Odsal stadium. I owe much of my love of the sport to him, but sadly he isn’t here to see me achieve this ultimate ambition. So I thought I’d take the opportunity to raise some money in his memory and, in a way, take him to the race with me anyway. The idea is that I will put the initials of everyone who donates at least £1 onto the side of the racecar. One hundred thousand Brits follow this race, so that’s one pound each to help me say thank you to an amazing charity.”
The Lotus Jetalliance team represents the combined forces of Group Lotus Motorsport and Jetalliance Racing of Austria and will compete for the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup – a global championship that encompasses races in the UK, Belgium, Italy, America and China alongside the big event in France. The team certainly has the pedigree to succeed. Lotus needs little in the way of introduction to race fans and is developing a brand new “GTE” class version of its road-going Evora sports car especially for this championship, powered by a 4.0 litre V6 Cosworth engine. The Jetalliance Racing team has vast experience of top-flight GT racing over many years and scored a podium finish for another English marque, Aston Martin, in the 2009 Le Mans 24 hours.
Martin himself has been racing GT cars for nine years and also has an impressive CV, including a hat-trick of podium results in 24-hour endurance events. “I love racing during the night” he says with a grin. “It’s terrifying the first time you try it, but once you get your head around it, it’s like nothing else. Throw in some torrential rain or perhaps fog and the fun really starts! Le Mans will be something different though – higher speeds, bumpy public roads and limited practice time all make it the ultimate challenge. I hope I get the last night stint as others tell me that racing into the sunrise along the Mulsanne straight is simply unbeatable.”
This year’s Le Mans 24 Hours will be the 79th running of a race first held in 1923. The world’s best sports car drivers compete in teams of three in this ultimate test of stamina as they race around the small French town at speeds well in excess of 200mph on what are usually public roads. The race-cars are categorised as either the faster purpose-built “Le Mans Prototypes”, or the more instantly recognisable “GT Endurance” machines which are based on road-going sports cars from the likes of Ferrari, Porsche and now Lotus.
Does Martin think he can succeed with either of his challenges? “As far as the race itself is concerned, I’m just thrilled to have a chance to compete against the very best in the world in my sport. The whole team is working flat out to create the best car possible and Le Mans is a very long and very difficult race. The plan is simply to stay out of trouble and be sure that we see the chequered flag on the Sunday afternoon. If we manage that, it will be an enormous success – anything beyond that is a bonus.”
“As for the fund raising, the concept is built around lots of people donating a small amount, so I want to encourage lots of people to please make a tiny effort and support this initiative! It couldn’t be easier – simply find the LeMans page on the Virgin Money Giving website, donate as little as £1 using your PayPal account if you have one and leave your initials so I can put them on the car and make you a part of racing history. Your money goes directly to Macmillan and I’m even covering the online administration charges. So maybe it is ambitious, but wouldn’t it be an amazing story if we did reach the £100,000 target?!”
You can donate at http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/lemans (please ensure you mention you’re from The Lotus Forums by using the initials TLF) and follow Martin throughout the season at www.martin-rich.com and on Twitter @martinjrich. And if you’re going to the race itself, don’t forget to cheer him on!
The Lotus Forums have made an initial donation of £50.00, please help us to help Martin by donating today!