Infiniti will enter the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship next year as title sponsor of a new not-for-profit motorsport team named Infiniti Support Our Paras Racing.
Two new Infiniti Q50 race cars built to the BTCC's NGTC rulebook will join the domestic tin-top series. The cars will be driven by Richard Hawken, who has won three championships at club level and tested for the Speedworks BTCC outfit in 2013, and Derek Palmer Jr, who has raced in touring cars and sportscars.
The team, overseen by long-time motorsport preparation specialist Derek Palmer Sr and his Pro Motorsport operation, has been set up to help raise awareness and funds for Support Our Paras, the official charity of The Parachute Regiment.
A number of injured Paratroopers will work on the cars to prepare them not only for race weekends. The team has a long-term goal of developing, training and ensuring an injured Paratrooper graduates through the racing ranks to pilot an Infiniti Support Our Paras Racing car in the future.
"The ultimate goal is to have a third car out there with an injured Para competing in it," said team principal Palmer. "We've set ourselves a number of significant, but achievable targets.
"Of course we are aware of the challenges ahead of us, but with the united forces of the Paras and Infiniti, we believe we have the power to deliver results in the BTCC."
The car is expected to hit the track for the first time towards the end of this year. Infiniti will leave the preparation of the cars to Pro Motorsport, but will supply the body shells and panels.
Steve Oliver, Infiniti Regional Director for North Europe, said: "We can provide some support and make sure the charity is being promoted in the right way. We're a relatively new premium manufacturer, and the recently launched Q50 is a car that is the future of Infiniti – to have it racing in the championship will be fantastic.
"Infiniti is establishing itself as a main player in the premium sector in the UK, with sales on the increase, a new design Centre in Paddington London and from next year we will manufacture the first Infiniti for Europe outside of Japan from the plant based in Sunderland.
"These race cars reinforce our commitment to the UK and provide an ideal platform to link together two truly British establishments, The Parachute Regiment and the BTCC.”
Infiniti also has technical ties with Formula 1 team Red Bull Racing. For the time being the two programmes remain entirely separate, but said "sharing expertise is something we may look at for the future".
All profits generated by the team will be donated to the Support Our Paras charity. The new team, which has the non-financial, full backing of the Parachute Regiment, will ensure that funds are raised for the welfare and benevolence of injured Paras and their families.
The BTCC's series director, Alan Gow, said: “It’s fantastic to welcome a new manufacturer to the BTCC and particularly a premium brand such as Infiniti. There’s a great initiative behind the team too, with the Support Our Paras charity being such a worthwhile cause.”
The team will operate out of a newly refurbished base at Mallory Park. The Leicestershire race circuit started life as Royal Air Force Station Kirkby Mallory, a standby landing ground during WWII, before closing in 1947.