Land Rover Experience Centre at Eastnor Castle recently played host to members of the UK Team that will compete at the 2016 Invictus Games as preparations for the the international adaptive sporting event for Wounded Injured and Sick (WIS) servicemen and women get underway
Jaguar Land Rover hosted a full day’s training session and selection event for the Driving Challenge that will take place in Orlando on 7 May and provide all 15 competing nations with their first Invictus Games medal opportunity.
Eight of the UK Team were joined by Land Rover ambassadors and Invictus Games supporters, Zara Phillips and rugby star Billy Vunipola, who helped the competitors hone their skills and compete for the two places on offer to represent the UK in the Driving Challenge next month.
Splitting into navigator and driver pairings, the UK Team members took Range Rover Sports to the hills, tackling near impenetrable woodland and swamp-like conditions to test their communication, team-working and strategic planning skills. In a further test of speed and precision, Jaguar XEs were driven in a slalom-style challenge, negotiating obstacles and exercising vehicle control.
Coaching the teams through the challenge, Olympic Medallist Phillips and Grand Slam winner Vunipola, offered encouragement, advice and support as well as insight into their own preparations and approach to performance and motivation in their respective sports. Both praised the UK Team competitors, saying that they would be cheering them on come May.
Zara Phillips said: “I really enjoyed supporting the Invictus Games in 2014 so I was delighted to be asked to be involved again this year. I was really pleased to be part of the challenge and announce the two UK Team members that will compete for the first medal in the driving challenge in Orlando in May.
“Each member of the UK Invictus Games team should inspire us all, so I’m extremely proud to be a supporter of the Games and the Team through Land Rover. I’m looking forward to seeing the UK team in action and hopefully bringing home the first gold medal.”
Billy Vunipola added: “It was fantastic to meet the guys from the UK Team and inspiring to see how they go above and beyond to qualify to compete at the Invictus Games. I’ll be right behind them when it comes to Orlando in May and I am really proud to be supporting them through Land Rover.
“It was a good laugh being in the car with the competitors. Pretty scary at times but the vehicles are built for this and the guys weren’t bad drivers either!”
After a day of hard-fought competition, UK Team members Michael Westwell and Martin Clapton were the challengers to qualify for Orlando.
“We’re going to have the first opportunity at the 2016 Invictus Games to win a gold medal so we’ll have our fingers crossed,” Westwell said. “It’s been fantastic to get out and have a practice run and have the opportunity to meet two world class athletes in Zara Phillips and Billy Vunipola and listen to how they approach their own training and preparation. It’s been great to have the support of Jaguar Land Rover as sponsor of the UK Team and providing the first medal opportunity in Orlando – we’re going to be driving a couple of fantastic vehicles so hopefully we can do them proud and bring back the gold medal for the UK.”
Jaguar Land Rover is continuing its support of Invictus Games in its role as presenting partner and proud sponsor of the UK Team for 2016 following the successful inaugural games in London 2014.