As the UK increases its military presence in Afghanistan, the need for innovative land vehicle solutions for harsh environments is increasingly pressing.
Over the last four years the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has reached out to the country's motorsport industry in an effort to improve the equipment it procures and, in particular, to satisfy its urgent operational requirements (UORs).
"It's a grassroots-led activity, but it's well understood that there are benefits from it," said Colonel Nick Wills, team leader of the MoD's Defence Equipment & Support [DE&S] Protected Mobility Team, at a recent motorsport and defence industry event held in the UK. "Most of the vehicles that we've got [in Afghanistan] on operations at the moment have actually had some kind of input from the motorsports industry."
Col Wills continued: "At the moment [the joint activity is] being focused on individual [MoD] teams - mine and a couple of others - but I think there's scope for this to be wider. It needs something bigger than just focusing on individuals in the DE&S to take this forward."
The growing collaboration between the UK's motorsport and defence industries is due, in large part, to the 'Lord Drayson effect', said Col Wills, referring to the inspiring influence of the former procurement minister who left the MoD in November 2007 to fulfil his ambition of taking part in the 24-hour Le Mans car race, returning to the department in June this year as its minister for strategic defence acquisition reform.