Operation Motorsport is definitely making an impact within the racing community.
Their website states, “Operation Motorsport is a Veteran Led and Operated, Not for Profit, based in Brighton, Ontario, serving Canadian & American service members and veterans and was founded on the basis of three simple words: Excite, Engage and Empower. The premise is to engage ill and injured Service Members and veterans affected by military service, through Motorsport activities to aid in their recovery and rehabilitation.”
The mission statement is to engage, through motorsports opportunities, ill, injured and wounded service members and disabled veterans, affected by military service, leading to aiding in their recovery and rehabilitation.
The organization was started by Diezel Lodder who is CEO and President of Operation Motorsport.
Lodder is a veteran who retired in 2015 as a Master Warrant Officer as a parachute rigger.
In 2006 he and his wife Tiffany went to a race and they were both bitten by the racing bug from that point on even though Lodder was still serving in the Canadian Armed Forces.
“Racing became where we spent time together,” said Lodder. “Our kids were getting older.”
Lodder and his wife got into running car corrals which essentially is for the racing superfan of an individual marque of car.
In November 2016 Diezel went to the Race of Remembrance at Anglesey Circuit in Wales and changed the course of his life.
On the Sunday of the weekend race at precisely 11 a.m., they red flag the race and stop all the race cars on the front straight. All the drivers get out, the crews assemble and they pin their medals on their driving suits. Then there is a very poignant and do a full trackside service of remembrance on pit lane, before racing resumes.
“It is absolutely the most moving Remembrance Day you will ever experience. Why? Because everybody that’s there wants to be there and are there for a purpose.”
“When we left we were so full of energy and the similarity of what a paddock and a deployment in the military, the structure,” said Lodder.
Lodder said his goal is to incorporate Canadian soldiers teaming together with race teams for a weekend of racing.
From November 2016 until June 2017 the Lodders laid the groundwork talking to teams and their owners about their project titled Operation Motorsport.
The motto is “excite, engage and empower.”
Excite them about the sport, “things that take their mind off of the dark places.”
Engage with the team to have a purpose.
Empower them to go forward with their life.
Last year was a learning curve about how to fit the soldiers with the teams. Talking to teams, talking to owners, the costs, what the teams would provide.
A team provides the opportunity, credentials, crew shirt, and feeds them for the weekend. What Operation Motorsport provides is a partnership and a way to embed the soldier with the team. “It’s like deploying in an operation,” said Lodder.
From the drivers of the race cars to the similarities of a fighter jet pilot, it’s team work that gets the victory.
“Everybody has a purpose and a job to have an identity. It’s very familiar to a military guy or gal to come into the racing environment and feel comfortable very quickly.”
At the Victoria Day Speedfest Weekend which ran from May 18-20, Operation Motorsport had three veterans or medically releasing soldiers termed “beneficiaries” team up with race teams.
The veterans have either retired or are leaving the military for a variety of reasons including post-traumatic stress disorder or physical injuries.
Travis Hill who is co-founder of TWOth Autosport said the team pairs up with a member of the military through Operation Motorsport to work with the team on something they need to work on with the race car.
At the Canadian Tire Mosport Park on the Victoria Day weekend, veteran Dale Newbury was teamed up with four other crew members from TWOth Autosport. Newbury joined the military in 1991, and was deployed on multiple tours overseas including, Central America, the Baltic Peninsula and Afghanistan to name just a few. Newbury was released from the military in 2012 after serving nearly 20 years.
“Usually the first time we give them a fairly light task list to let them see all the different components of the race team because there is a lot more than just what the driver does,” said Hill. “Dale came to us with a bit of a mechanical background so he is getting hands dirty with the car and understanding what all happens with each session.”
Hill said he’s honoured to be a part of the program. “Anything we can do to give back and bring them into a community where it’s fairly similar to what they’re accustomed to and something to look forward too, a new challenge and it’s very rewarding at the end of the weekend.”
Newbury is a long way from his home in Chalk River and loves the aspect of the racing community.
As a retirement gift he bought himself a sports car. “It’s good to get out of the house for the weekend and you never know where it might lead in the future,” Newbury said while taking a quick break.“You make new friends and go from there.”
Dale said the team was “super friendly” and within the first five minutes he was put to work. “It’s a small group of guys with one common goal to run as fast as you can as safe as you can. During my career I worked in small groups with people, but all the time that small group is to benefit the larger group with having a sole goal in mind.”
Steve Bortolotti, team manager of Pfaff Motorsports, had medically releasing beneficiary Theo Bruulsema embedded with their team.
Bruulsema enrolled in the ROTP program in 2011 and attended Ryerson University, where he developed an interest in motorsports on the Formula SAE team. After graduating, he was posted to Trenton and completed some of the training to be an Aerospace Control Officer until medical issues prevented further progression. While waiting for a release decision, he worked at WOps then at ATESS. He is pending his medical release in August.
As an engineer by trade, Bortolotti said Bruulsema was helping keep data records for both the teams cars during the weekend.
“Theo’s been a huge asset to the program and I couldn’t be happier,” said Bortolotti. “It’s a great cause and I have a lot of respect for the sacrifice he’s made on behalf of our country and on behalf of our freedom. It was the right thing to do. The first time we started the car I could see his eyes light up, so it makes us all feel good.”
Bortolotti shared one secret over the weekend with Today’s Northumberland. “To be honest, he’s such a huge asset I was going to try and talk to him about hiring him. I couldn’t be happier.”
Bruulsema said working with the team has been “awesome.” “Hopefully I’ll make something out of it. The team has been super friendly. They’ve got me more involved than I expected.”
Veteran Bill Carrette joined the military in 1996 and was posted to Calgary in 1997. Bill’s service included tours of duty to Kosovo, Bosnia, Afghanistan along with other missions. He retired as a Master Corporal in 2012. Bill was diagnosed with cancer 2010, but thankfully has been in remission since 2015.
On the Victoria Day Speedfest Weekend he was working with CRP Racing. “I like the team atmosphere. I haven’t experienced that in a long time.”
“That’s been the biggest benefit I would take out of this so far, and probably most guys would.”
Carrette loves racing and said for most veterans that are associated with Operation Motorsport, and love racing, the program would be very beneficial. “That’s going to apply with the vast majority of guys that I’ve worked with. There is a lot of different ways to be a car guy. From mechanics to driving to just being a fan, but it’s about getting out in the semi-real world and getting involved. Getting out of your norm doing something different.”
Operation Motorsport is making a difference one soldier at a time. If you would like to learn more about their mission or are interesting in assisting, go to their website: operationmotorsport.org