It's a long story that has led us to where we are now...

Racing4Charity’s roots can be traced back to 1994, when Bill Williams was Chairman of The Merrydale League of Friends, a respite care home for children with disabilities in North Hampshire. Their mission was to raise £25,000 to build a wheelchair-friendly outdoor play area. 

 

With Thruxton as his local circuit, Bill hatched a plan to get some high profile names from the world of motorsport to help his small charity. Bill duly enlisted the help of local F1 driver Derek Warwick as ‘League President’ and BTCC driver James Kaye as Vice-President.

 

A chance meeting with David Brabham, who was shaking down the Simtek F1 car one afternoon led to David also becoming Vice-President of Merrydale and set the wheels in motion for a now 27-year-strong fundraising partnership.

 

Bill’s now legendary fundraising efforts began with an auction headed by Kelvin Burt at the 1994 BTCC Thruxton weekend. David’s inaugural duties began with supporting the charity race at Kartworld, Andover that September where he not only raced but took over the BBQ duties! By 1995, £25,000 was duly raised for Merrydale.

 

The following year, Bill was struck down with Pancreatitis and was in hospital for nearly six months. Shortly after Bill was released in the new year, David got in touch with the idea of creating a charitable organisation to raise funds through the auction of racing memorabilia for various children’s charities, including BLISS (Baby Life Support Systems) and what is now known as Racing4Charity was born.

 

They held a series of auctions at small events, including at the Silverstone round of the ALMS, where David raced with Panoz LMP1.  Before long, the pair were auctioning items on the main stage and then F1 Racing stage of Europe’s largest motorsport show, Autosport International, even receiving requests for specific items such as Jan Lammers’ race suit which David duly sourced and sold off.

 

Contacts gained during those years soon meant there was enough interest to stage Racing4Charity’s first karting event, and Autosport International’s home at the NEC, Birmingham was the perfect venue. In partnership with the show organisers, a special format was devised that would allow members of the public to race alongside motorsport stars from across the echelons of the sport.

 

It proved a cracking formula, raising between £6,000-8,000 each year. By 2008, the event earned sponsorship from BP Ultimate and was televised on MotorsTV, providing vital publicity for Racing4Charity’s partner charities.

 

Taking place in January each year, the event grew rapidly in stature, becoming the ‘must-do’ race for many drivers and celebrities looking to get their year off to a fun and rewarding start. Such was the demand, the event was moved to the 5000-seater Live Action Arena in 2010 and held in aid of Malaria No More UK, of which David was an ambassador. 

The list of participating drivers read like a who’s who of international motorsport. It included David’s 2009 Le Mans-winning team-mate Alexander Wurz and fellow Peugeot Sport drivers Franck Montagny and Nicolas Minassian, Guy Smith, Dindo Capello and Emanuele Pirro, Marino Franchitti, Johnny Mowlem, Rob Bell and Derek Bell as Race Director.

 

Although the new venue presented some significant challenges, particularly with the barrier system, the result was the best ever line-up of celebrities and drivers, even greater TV exposure plus live-streamed radio coverage from Radio Le Mans.

 

Returning to the Live Action Arena for 2011 using the entire hall allowed the Racing4Charity team to reesolve the previous year’s issues and deliver the best and most successful event ever.  With over £350,000 raised to date, David and Bill understandably decided to ease up on the fundraising efforts. 

 

Bill continued to work on the odd charity endeavour when asked, including for Ben Collins (The Stig) in supporting wounded soldiers with their endeavour to race the Dakar Rally, called Race2Recovery. Again, Bill called upon Autosport International to help and host their Dakar Rally car in the Live Action Arena. A short video showed a young soldier, who had lost his leg, being recovered by an RAF Chinook. That same soldier then drove the Land Rover into the Arena to be interviewed by Louise Goodman. There was barely a dry eye in the house and a small fortune raised.

 

David and Bill have remained close friends and when Bill’s brother, Gideon, was diagnosed with MND in 2019, it seemed only fitting that they held a karting event to support him. With over £3,000 raised, the fundraising bug had struck again, leading to plans to re-create an annual charity race in aid of the MND Association. 

 

After a 10-year hiatus, Racing4Charity will stage the KARTING4MND charity kart race and auction across the BTCC weekend, 26-29 August 2021, at Thruxton.