Tyrone Mathurin is a glowing talent in Team BRIT’s squad of determined daredevils making their mark in the world of motor-sport racing. After graduating with a Foundation degree in Art & Design, facing a prison stint, and a life-changing accident which left Mathurin unable to walk for months.
For any sport, the iridescent desire to snatch Gold, usurp expectations and break psychological and societal barriers is a prerequisite for any athlete worth their penny and yet Mathruin has built that impenetrable resilience before he’s truly shown his peak potential. With his coolheaded demeanour and humble outlook on life and racing, Mathurin will always find himself behind the steering wheel – driving homeward towards a successful and bright future – serving an occasional glance at the wing mirrors.
The born-and-raised South Londoner is a rookie driver of Team BRIT, a British competitive racing team, and Mathurin shares with us their goals of becoming the first all-disabled racing team in the Le Mans, a 24-hour endurance racing event. In this exclusive interview with Gen B, Mathruin talks to us about Team BRIT, the reality of being black, disabled in the world of racing and the future of racing.
Gen B: How did Team Brit happen?
Tyrone Mathurin: Sometime in 2010, Team Brit started as a go-karting team to help injured servicemen and women get their mental back from when they were affected by physical or mental disabilities.
Do you think that separates Team BRIT from any other racing team?
Yeah, because we have something to prove, that we because we have disabilities, we’re still able as others, we can push through limitations that most able people can’t find themselves in. We still have the ability and we’re still determined to because we have a point to prove, to others and to ourselves.
Yeah, I can imagine, others believe in you but others might think how can you even drive?
Not everyone comes from that angle, some of them are inquisitive on track or race days, they ask questions, they’re inspired. Some individuals tend to have a bias towards disabled drivers, and people in general. They see it as an inability until they see the ability that someone disabled can do it.
Speaking to the point about being disabled in sport, why do you think representation is paramount in sport?
It’s a key factor. Being the only black person in the race and there was a point where i was the only black guy on the team and I thought because it’s all white, personally that I didn’t fit in and I should do an U-Turn but the team was very accepting of the challenges I faced and they helped me, it made me more driven to race whereas others will think nah that’s too much. If people see representation, they’d feel more included.
Yeah for young people, it’d give them that push.
I see a lot more black people in racing whereas before I didn’t see it. It needs to start from the ground roots for young kids, get them into engineering, marketing, and racing. I went to a race for Diversity conference sometime back. There were young black kids who were into karting and they were telling us their challenges in karting and the barriers they had to break through.. It was refreshing to see kids try to break those barriers. There’s a guy in Lewisham who is building an RC (radio-controlled) track for cars, what’d they’d do is spark interest in young kids in engineering or racing.
Yeah, not everybody has to be the driver, they can be part of the team, mechanics, PR, engineering.
That’s what Lewis Hamilton is trying to do with Ignition 44, they’re trying to get more black people into engineering, so they have a foundation to build off in the future.
Where do you see the future of racing?
I see electric racing being the future, I see it in Formula E.
There can be criticisms of racing causing so much pollution.
Yeah, you can say the same for sports like motor-racing, go-karting.
Do you have any advice on how not to drive a car? From the experience of professional racing and driving on the road?
ON the road? With my experience with professional racing, I do a lot of track days, it’s very intense. It helps me with driving on the road because I’m much more calmer and patient on the road. I don’t rush, I don’t drive recklessly.
Trust me, I thought you were gonna say Red means Stop, don’t hit and run that pedestrian over there. For the ones who don’t understand that yet.
Everyone’s trying to get home quick these days.
What’s something you’ve learned from the sport that you’ve applied in the outside world?
I guess my confidence. I’ve always been shy, now I’m more outspoken before I wasn’t that type of person to give my piece. I guess in some regards, my story didn’t feel important so why tell it? But it’s other people telling me no, you should bring your story, being from black families where you’re told don’t tell people your business.
What’s your favorite moment in your career?
The unveiling of our McLaren [570S GT4], we did it last year, we did it as a team, worked together and that’s where I learnt more about every other driver.
What’s the fastest speed you’ve gone?
Before my accident, on my motorbike, it was 180MPH. Yeah that was a *chuckles*
Was that legal?
There weren’t so many cameras back then. I went from Brighton to London in like 14 minutes.
It usually takes 45 minutes to drive back. I lived to tell the tale.
Considering you have a love for speed and vehicles, is that how you got into racing?
Through Team Brit. Obviously getting over my injury, I still wanted to ride, you still have that passion for it I saw my mates on bikes, I thought the next big thing was my Quad Bike. I have no feeling in my right arm and the accelerator’s on the right so I was looking for conversions so I can convert an accelerator for my left arm and I see this video of Team Brit explaining their hand controls, found their website and they were advertising track days.
I got in touch with the owner, emailed himself, got an email back saying would you like to race? I heard that and got invited down, initially before that, because I was disabled, I had to do a series of tests to make sure I was capable of driving. I had to do an hour on the sim-rig, you get the stimulation of it all – the bumps, the force feedback from the steering wheel.
Once you get past that test, we do some go-karting to see if we have the competitive streak and then we do a track race. I just kinda ended up falling into it through researching.
It must’ve been rewarding to come from that setback.
It’s been a long road, because I remember being told I was going to walk again, and after my accident, I had a re-connective surgery on my right arm where I tore the nerves. I woke up and I was paralysed, on my hospital bed for eight months. There were months where I had to come to terms with the fact that I’m never going to walk again, followed by months of rehab. I exceeded my limits.
It affected me emotionally because I wanted to ride again but I learned lessons about patience and doing only what I can do. I learned how to be thankful and understanding, and I had family around me to keep me sane.
It touched me but I also knew if I couldn’t do it then I couldn’t do it. Joining Team BRIT made me realize there is a light and threw away my doubts seeing others with different disabilities do what I wanted to do.
What are future plans for Team BRIT and yourself?
For Team BRIT in 2024, we’re planning to race in Le Mans, that’s the bucket list really but we’re always trying to break barriers regardless. That’s the plan, showing others we can do what they do, maybe even better.
The optics are cool as well. Others with a similar disability are seeing what you’re doing and it shows they can doing anything they put their mind to.
The response I’ve gotten is crazy, a lot of people with disabilities hit me up and get encouraged. Team BRIT really believes in all disabilities, all religions, creeds and they’re accepting – just get in a car and see what you can do.
Team BRIT paced their way to Donington for the next round of the British GT Championship; their GT4 Qualifying and three-hour race commenced on Saturday 28th July at 4:30 BST and Sunday 29th July, 4:30 BST, respectively. You can also catch Team BRIT in a sponsored karting event at Daytona Milton Keynes on the 6th July.