Local driving and skiing legends are stepping up for the challenge of their lives. For years, the Wings for Life World Run Catcher Car drivers have been in training. They’ve spent decades in high-speed, high-focus disciplines to prepare themselves for this moment. From Formula One, from rally driving, from world-class skiing, they come, with their perfectly honed skills, to take on the challenge of their lives.
This challenge is about endurance, precision and a focus they must sustain for hours, never knowing when the end will come.
For these men and women, the drive of their life will call them on May 8, 2016.
Coming from Formula One’s 400km per hour speeds, legends David Coulthard of Great Britain and Mexico’s Memo Rojas join the next generation of high-speed legends, Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Spain’s Carlos Sainz in a challenge that will test their sixth sense for grip and pace control. With them they bring to Cambridge and Guadalajara, Breda and Valencia a balancing act like no other, harmonising dexterity with patience. Like tightrope walkers.
They come with decades of driving experience between them: they are the formidable Formula One team, ready to fulfil their Catcher Cars’ potential.
These guys know the limits they and their cars can go to.
Only the world’s greatest rally car drivers equal the Formula One guys. From the high-octane world of rally driving comes Austrian Reini Sampl, the only wheelchair car test pilot in the world, and Belgium’s Thierry Neuville. In Denmark, Jason Watt, who also has a spinal cord injury, following an accident in 1999, is doing all he can to support Wings for Life and spinal cord research.
The fastest person in Georgia, Data Kajaia, winner of Legends Euro Nations Cup in 2012 and 2013 and ranked in the top three in most of his races since 2005, will rev his engine at 11.30am UTC.
Also taking on the challenge of his life is Turkish Champion Rally Driver, Yağız Avcı, the youngest driver ever to win a round of the Turkish Rally Championship who claimed the title in 2013. ‘My special talent is the ability to adapt and control my car’, says Avcı -- skills we’ll see pushed to the limit on May 8.
With decades of experience as both a ski jumper and a rally driver, Poland’s Adam Małysz is one of the most successful ski jumpers of all time -- the only three-time winner of the Nordic Tournament -- and is now a rally driver prepared to chase thousands of runners for hours in Poznan. He’s used to his navigator shouting "Throttle, brake, steer, unwind, off the brake" at him, so this will be a much calmer experience.
Bridging the gap between rally drivers and 130kmph slalom skiers, Adam Małysz drives at the same time as Switzerland’s Elias Ambühl, who, unable to run because of a knee injury, will settle in to the Catcher Car in Olten.
With their intensely crystal vision and focus, the world’s Catcher Car drivers will cheer and honk and wave and high-five their way along the track until they have passed every single runner world wide. But who will catch the Global Champions?
“I usually go about 325kmph”, laughs the Max Verstappen, who’ll drive in the Netherlands, “but this time, I’ll be going for distance, not speed. I want to be the last Catcher Car driver out there – I want to be the one to catch the Global Champion!”
Carlos Sainz reckons he knows different: “I’ll be driving the Catcher Car at home in Spain. I don’t know what Max is thinking -- of course the Global Champion will be crowned here. I’ve got the endurance to keep going as long as necessary”, smiles the 21-year-old, knowing that two-time winner, Lemawork Ketema, ran for over five hours in 2014 and 2015.
Sign up to be a part of the Wings for Life World Run -- and stay ahead of the Catcher Car drivers for as long as you possibly can!
Catcher Car driver, Adolfo Aguilar in Lima, Peru
Lemawork Ketema, Global Champion 2014 and 2015
Daniel Ricciardo, Race number 1 and Formula 1 driver
Giorgio Calcaterra, Italian ultra-runner and winner in Italy 2015
Wings for Life foundation