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Mark Bannister

Email from Mark Bannister -
Hi,
Great to see that disabled people are getting opportunities in motorsport these days.

As a wheelchair user with a condition of Spinal Muscular Atrophy, I somehow managed to squeeze through the system and obtained an RAC British Competition Racing Licence and competed in 100cc kart racing for 6 years against able-bodied people.

I won the Merseyside 100cc Karting Championship for 2 years in 1981 and 1983 and even competed against the likes of David Coulthard and Johnny Herbert.

Other drivers used to be very sceptical when I turned up on the dummy grid in my wheelchair, was then lifted into the kart and equipped with a bungy strap through my crash helmet to a belt around my waste to keep my head straight when accelerating. Once they had been beaten by myself, they would soon come over and congratulate, having not really appreciated what a disabled person could achieve with a little bit of improvisation.

Here I was in a predominantly able bodied sport, competing against able bodied people and beating them at their own game. You can imagine the satisfaction!
 
I am now living and working in South Africa as a water engineer, servicing rural communities in the bush - no longer racing but still an avid enthusiast and just potter round in my AC Cobra on weekends - probably the quickest disabled vehicle in South Africa! I have attached a photo of my racing days, for your interest.

Although I am very happy to see more disabled people competing in motorsport, I was also disappointed one time when I returned to UK and my home track 3 sisters, to find that special classes had been developed especially for disabled people, therefore segregating them from others and reinforcing their differences.

If they are good enough to compete against able bodied people, then let them compete against able bodied people.

Let us all be one. Segregation is not good for personal development.  Great to see websites like your own developing and promoting disability and motorsport.

Keep it up!

Best Regards,
Mark Bannister