The Long Read: Race of Remembrance 2018


The final hours of an endurance race are a rather stressful time. The drivers are starting to feel tired, the car is usually well past its best and the pit crew will most likely be in the garage, staring like zombies at the live timing screens and praying for their machine to hold together.

It is not, then, usually a time when you expect to see a driver smash out a fastest lap of the race. And yet that's exactly what we've just witnessed.

Standing on the pit wall, our #7 Caterham, resplendent in its eye-catching Renaultsport liquid yellow colour scheme, has just lapped Anglesey International circuit faster than we managed to do in practice, qualifying, or in the preceding 11 hours of racing.

It's an impressive feat, and one that not only reflects how well the car has been put together, but the driving ability of the man behind the wheel - Daniel Holland. You see, Danny - as he is known to everyone - is no professional racing driver, and before this event he had not even stepped foot in a Caterham. But that didn't seem to bother him one jot - he simply jumped behind the wheel and drove the 310R up to and beyond its limits (more on that later) from the beginning of the race to the end.

To his family and friends, this rapid turn of pace didn't seem to come as a surprise. And I suppose once you get to know him, it wouldn't. After all, his journey to the grid was far from conventional - indeed, the word remarkable feels more appropriate.


A member of the Welsh Guards, Danny was on patrol in Helmand province back in 2012 when he and two of his mates were - and there's no easy way to say this - blown up by an improvised explosive device. The incident left him with multiple shrapnel wounds, deafness in one ear, traumatic brain injury, and as you would expect from such an event, PTSD.

Shortly after meeting him for the first time he quickly opened up about the experience and the following years of damage: "I was in a really bad place with my PTSD and had become completely withdrawn. Karting initially helped me get through that".

The karting he was talking about is run by an organisation called KartForce, a charity that helps to introduce injured troops to competitive motorsport through team endurance kart racing. Danny immediately impressed - you'll find that's a long running theme in this article - and quickly attracted the attention of long-standing PHer Major James Cameron (better known to some on here as Tankslider), the founder of forces' charity Mission Motorsport.

He felt that Danny could benefit from being involved with Mission Motorsport and threw all of his support behind him, giving him opportunities to race in everything from Citroen C1s all the way up to a race-prepped Lotus Elise.


Now, if you think that seems rather generous - motorsport is a notoriously ruthless game - you probably don't quite understand what fuels Mission Motorsport and Major Cameron. You see, Mission's sole aim is to help aid in the recovery and rehabilitation of those affected by military operations by providing opportunities through racing. The charity's slogan sums it up rather succinctly: "race, retrain, recover".

And in just six years the results speak for themselves - the charity has already helped over 1,300 people affected by military operations by showing them how their skills can be adapted to civilian roles, helping them learn new trades, providing vocational support and most importantly rebuilding their confidence. Over 90 beneficiaries have secured jobs as a direct consequence. It's genuinely impressive stuff.

But as with so many charities, it can be difficult to see the impact of their work in person. Which is why we were invited by Caterham (long-standing supporters of Mission) to see first hand how it operates by taking part in its crown jewel event - the Race of Remembrance.

Held in Anglesey in the middle of November - because, you know, military folk like a challenge - the event consists of 12-hours of racing, split into two six hour sections starting at 3:00pm and 9.00am on Saturday and Sunday respectively - the Sunday race being interrupted just before 11.00am for a service of remembrance in the pit lane.


In Anglesey there would be over 40 'beneficiaries' spread among the 50 teams taking part - one those, of course, being Danny. He would be sharing the Caterham Works car with me, an occasional club racer, and James Taylor from Car Magazine, a man with an uncanny ability to jump in just about anything and go fast. Want proof? He just came third in his first race in McLaren's Pure McLaren-GT Series despite never having driven the car previously.

However, all three of us had a pretty monumental challenge on our hands. I hadn't raced at Anglesey since 2012, Danny had only competed at Anglesey in a Citroen C1 - a wee bit different from 310R - and James had no experience of the car or circuit. But as I said, James is a quick learner, so had no real need to be nervous - or so I told him.

It wasn't until qualifying that we realised we might have a chance of not just winning our class, but the whole event. All three of us were split up into different groups on Saturday morning and given just 20 minutes each to go out and string a quick lap together. Our fastest times would then be collated to form an aggregate, which would be be used to determine the final grid position.

I was first up and for once felt strangely calm as I headed out onto the wet and windy circuit. Usually I find waiting to go out to qualify a fraught, nerve wracking and rather lonely experience, but the 310R was so confidence inspiring in the poor conditions that dominated Friday's practice session that I simply wanted to go out and show what it could do.


Thankfully I managed to do just that by sticking it straight on pole. Now, I'd like to say it was my 'endless reserves of talent' that helped us to dominate the session, but in truth it was all down to the little Caterham. When I needed it to rotate mid corner to get a decent exit, its predictable throttle response and perfect balance allowed me to do just that. And when I needed to carry maximum corner speed through the quicker bends to make up for our lack of straight-line speed, the 310R's feelsome steering allowed me to push right up to, and at times beyond, the limits of adhesion. It felt like my gran could have peddled it around just as quickly.

Happily, my teammates found it just as approachable to drive on the limit, with Danny and James both nailing P3 in their respective sessions. That put us P5 for the start of the race - don't ask us to explain why P1 and two P3 qualifying sessions put us in P5, we were a little confused, too. But to be honest, we were more than happy to let the race organisers do the maths. We had more important things to focus on, like who was going to start the race.

After flipping a coin it was decided that Danny would take the start, so Euan (our team boss) and I went up to the first corner to watch the action unfold. I almost wish I hadn't. As Danny came round on the wet line - the correct line - one of our main competitors got loose, causing them to slide wide and push Danny clear off the track. There was an audible intake of breath as we watched 'our' car pirouette around in slow motion before it came to rest facing in the right direction.


Somehow, despite the rather heavy spray, the two cars following behind managed to miss our brightly coloured Caterham, giving Danny some time to find first gear and get back into the race. Remarkably we'd only lost those two positions - the best possible outcome for an almost disastrous spin, we reasoned.

Over the next few laps Danny regained his composure and started to scythe through the field. We seemed to have the pace on almost every other car out there and by the time the clock ticked around to 6pm - three hours into the race - we were sitting in P2 and closing on the race leader.

Everything was going smoothly, until it came time for my first stint. As James came into the pits to hand the car over we immediately noticed that the Caterham's rear lights had decided to give up the ghost. Now, in the day, we could have potentially gotten away running without them, but with the sun having bid us a firm adieu, it was essential that we got them working to avoid being black-flagged.

Thankfully, fixing them didn't take too long - just a matter of minutes, in fact - but we'd still lost plenty of places, dropping us down to P13.


That meant there would be no time to ease into my stint - a point echoed by Danny's mate Graeme, who over our team radio uttered just three words: "full beast mode". It was all the advice I needed, as too often your natural instinct is to creep around as carefully as possible in dark and wet conditions, allowing your tyres to lose temperature and you to lose confidence.

However, having never raced in the dark before - my experience limited to the 20 minutes of night-time qualifying on the Friday evening of practice - I decided to give myself two laps to find my braking markers and reference points before I started to push on.

Thankfully, despite not really knowing where I was going, the car felt solid underneath me, and over the next 80 minutes or so I managed to claw back more and more places until we were running not just P1 in class but P1 overall. As I handed the car over to Danny I felt elated, we were back in the race. Or so I thought.

Before I knew it Danny was back in the pits, having not even completed a lap - this time the front LEDs had completely cut out. Again, it turned out to be another easy fix, our incredible mechanics Dave and Craig staying calm and diagnosing the problem in what felt like the blink of an eye. But even so, having to dive back into the pits had lost us another lap putting us back down in P12.


Mercifully this was to be our last technical issue for the rest of the race - well, aside from James having a brief coming together with another Caterham on the last lap of Saturday's day of racing (picture below). Thankfully, damage, was minimal and all of it could be fixed overnight.

So, as dawn broke the next day, and with the car looking in surprisingly good nick, we only had one plan: drive flat out to the line. Which is exactly what we did. Despite the tyres starting to show signs of wear and the brake pedal going fractionally long, the 310R seemed to feel better and better after every lap. Indeed, in sopping conditions I managed to drive clear of the leading Caterham which was behind on the road but ahead on time, while Danny managed to catch and pass the leading Mini - even if that too was just to un-lap himself.

By the end of the race we were consistently putting in the quickest times of the event and had the race been just an hour longer, we may have had a shot at the top step of the podium. But as Guy Martin (TT racer and part time philosopher) has often been heard to say: "If 'ifs and buts' were pots and pans - we'd all be scrap metal merchants". And so, in the end we came across the line P2 in class and P4 overall.

Not quite the win that we wanted, but equally not bad for three guys that had never raced together before the weekend. Plus, as Euan our team boss quite rightly pointed out "I suppose it gives us the excuse to come back next year and do one better".


Now, you might ask why I decided to focus so closely on the racing in this article. After all, as James Cameron kept repeating throughout the remembrance weekend, 'it's a remembrance service first, a race second'. And while that is undoubtedly true, the thing that left me most in awe over was the charity's approach to helping people individually; taking their unique situations into account and helping them to rebuild.

For Danny, that meant being given the opportunity to fully embrace the "Race" element of the charity's slogan "race, retrain, recover"; motorsport allowing him to regain confidence and structure after such a traumatic event. And though I cannot speak for him, I'd be surprised if setting the fastest lap of the three (three times in succession, I might add) didn't act as some sort of therapy.

Now of course, Danny's story was just one of hundreds in Anglesey over Remembrance weekend and the race itself is just one of the more visible events hosted by Mission Motorsport. But if you're planning on observing Remembrance Sunday anywhere next year, I can guarantee there really is no better place to do it than Anglesey. It might be wet, windy and wild, but you'll have an experience that you will never forget. I know I won't.

If you are interested in the work of Mission Motorsport, or want to get involved, please visit their website here.

Neil Winn

Pictures courtesy of Tom Chapman Photography: @tomchapmanphotography on Instagram










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Comments (6) Join the discussion on the forum

  • dukeboy749r 16 Nov 2018

    Just superb

    Thanks for this great article.

  • foz01 16 Nov 2018

    That's one of our minis, probably after being punted off by the caterhams, who loved contact this year!

  • Nanook 16 Nov 2018

    foz01 said:
    That's one of our minis, probably after being punted off by the caterhams, who loved contact this year!
    My friend was driving the black and yellow MINI, were you running that one?

  • foz01 16 Nov 2018

    No we had 2 scottish cooper cup cars down the blue one pictured above and a sister pink one (which I plus 3 others drove & won the 1600 class)

    We were next door to the dayglo one though, who is your friend Chris?

  • geeks 16 Nov 2018

    Was gutted to miss it this year following our P1 last year in the Compact class but the lads still managed P1 in the C1's this year so happy to have been there in spirit! Well done on the drive guys....

    I will say I set my fastest lap on the final lap last year... just saying smile

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