Ranger Road: Getting Veterans Into Endurance Racing

Of all the causes out there, Ranger Road may be the most fun. They aim to rehabilitate and reinvigorate veterans through adrenaline-heavy activities like sky diving, mixed martial arts, cycling, boxing, and–most recently–auto racing. Teaching an able-bodied person to drive a racing car is a monumental task, so putting brave men missing limbs in a car and getting them comfortable sliding and dicing in traffic requires special machinery and special coaching.

The team see themselves as a family and hope that any new members see it as something they can invest in and grow with. [All photos by Jake Langston]

This past October, they brought a handful of disabled veterans to compete in an eight-hour enduro at Portland International Raceway. The 45th Annual Cascade Enduro brought vehicles and racers of all stripes to compete. Spec E46s, Spec Miatas, Radical SR3s, and McLaren GT4s all made an appearance. Ranger Road brought two cars: a massively powerful Corrado and a modern GTI with some interesting augmentations.

Making Motorsport Possible

The Ranger Road GTI sports a turbocharged motor making roughly 270 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque with a quick auto box and, specifically for this car, a set of hand controls. These allow for the throttle and brake pedals to be bypassed. This way, Ranger Road’s one double-lower amputee and two paraplegics have the ability to meter out torque and braking power progressively.

Note the hand controls under the wheel.

Most of the affected drivers rely on the automatic shifting of the Volkswagen’s quick-shifting and intelligent DSG gearbox, but they still have their hands full, so to speak. That gearbox, combined with a torquey motor and soft-edged setup makes this an accommodating car for the entire squad. For long distance races with many drivers, this is the compromise required.

The Right Hired Gun

Even with an agreeable car, they had to hire some help to get the veterans up to speed. VLN racer and instructor Ken Fukuda was brought in to get those needing help on the pace. His knowledge and welcoming character allowed him to get these unique drivers comfortable managing the car and navigating the dense traffic in one afternoon.

Dealing with faster teams through PIR’s Turn 6.

“Racing a car is difficult enough. Doing so in a competitive field only with hand controls and/or prosthetics is something else entirely. Fortunately, veterans are a different breed and, boy, did these guys get up to speed quickly—and on a new track to boot!”

Fukuda (R) getting ready to set a data lap in practice.

“We proudly came away with a top-10 finish for both cars. With our Corrado, co-driven by yours truly, we finished 7th in class with the pace to fight for some silverware if not for an unexpected pitstop to fix an oil leak. Not bad for a 30-year-old car competing against some much newer machinery and, man, that tuning from Tomas Sport was just perfect!”

An eight-hour race takes a toll on any vehicle.

Plans for the Future

For the foreseeable future, the team’s aim is to continue racing various endurance events along the west coast, but they have plans for bigger things.

Major, one of the handicapped drivers, has taken this idea and hashed out a list of the potential paths they could follow. Having spent time in SCCA, NASA, Redline Time Attack, Global Time Attack, and Chump Car, he knows the club landscape and aims for something with more cachet and competition—specifically, Pikes Peak and Le Mans.

Though moving into races of this level would require serious budgets, the pack’s energy, networks, and pooled resources could make it a reality. Don’t doubt these folks—they are a different breed.

About the author

Tommy Parry

Tommy Parry has been racing and writing about racing cars for the past seven years. As an automotive enthusiast from a young age, he worked jobs revolving around cars throughout high school, and tried his hand on the race track on his 20th birthday. After winning his first outdoor kart race, Tommy began working as an apprentice mechanic to amateur racers in the Bay Area to sharpen his mechanical understanding. He has worked as a track day instructor and automotive writer since 2012, and continues to race karts, formula cars, sedans, and rally cars in the San Francisco region.
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