A FATHER is to take his interest in racing to the next level when he competes in a rally championship in a car he has refurbished himself.
Mark Thomas, who has owned Mark Thomas Trimming, on the Churchill Industrial Estate, Lancing, for 16 years, last weekend, March 24/25, began competing in the Retro Rally Cross Challenge.
The competition, which will be televised on Channel 4 and Sky TV, involves retro rallying cars competing in a mixture of track and mud racing, during a season that began last weekend and will continue until October.
But Mark, from George V Avenue, Goring, will not be racing just for himself – he will also be organising fund-raising days for the ex-servicemen’s charity Help for Heroes.
And the 40-year-old said he even aimed to take 10 ex-servicemen along for a ride in his and a friend’s rally car during one of the race weekends.
Mark said he had competed in grass track racing as a 14-year-old, in Angmering, and as an adult had taken part in the MR2 Challenge a couple of years ago, which involved circuit racing on such famous tracks as Brands Hatch and Silverstone.
But the inspiration for Mark’s interest in racing comes in part from his father, Dave Thomas, who at 65 is still racing, after he retired when he was 50.
Mark said: “I fancied a go at this because it’s a mixture of mud and track. It’s taking the racing to the next level and doing it with the charity in mind.”
The father-of-three said he had been inspired to raise money for Help for Heroes because of a friend and his sister. “My sister lost her leg a while ago and I know how it affected her life. I can sort of relate to the soldiers who go through this.
“I know a friend who has been in Afghanistan and I want to put a smile on a soldier’s face. They’re going to come into society and are they going to get a job, live on the dole, or be in a bedsit?
“I’ve got my children and my house and my business and I want to give something back,” he said.
Mark is now ready to compete in the rally championship, but it has been a long time coming.
For the last year and a half he has been developing his vehicle, a race car from the 1990s, into the speed demon he hopes will catapult him to success.
He added: “We’ll have to see what happens. If it goes well we’ll do another season and get another car out there, perhaps.”
Mark will be raising money for Help for Heroes during the season on four separate days in July and August, and twice in October, when his three daughters will be holding a collection bucket.