Master Corporal Johnathan Schwemler set a goal for himself when he served in Afghanistan as a member of the Canadian Armed Forces. He wanted to establish the Jonathan Schwemler Racing ChumpCar Program as a tribute to his brothers and sisters in arms.
Johnathan Schwemler Race Cars was founded in 2010. Shortly after, the JSR ChumpCar Program began, providing a non-traditional recreational activity for members of Soldier On – current or former CAF members suffering from a chronic, visible or non-visible injury or illness.
“I knew motorsport and the activity around it would provide teams with ingredients like excitement, unit cohesion, competition and success, all things that current and former soldiers can relate to. For individuals on the team finding those intangible things outside of the military is a bonus,” said Schwemler.
The team participates in the Optima Batteries ChumpCar World Series, an endurance road racing series using $500 cars. The cars are valued on a predetermined base value and then adjusted as modifications are added or subtracted. Each team requires a minimum of four drivers.
The winner of the race is the team that goes the farthest, or completes a set distance with the fastest time. There is no prize money, just a $20 trophy and bragging rights. Points are not awarded over the season. The series is designed with an emphasis on having fun.
Private or corporate funding is critical to making it to the start line of each race with the team and cars. Sponsorship would mean up to ten Soldier On members would have the opportunity to finish a 24-hour race as drivers and crew members.
Soldier On members are scattered across Canada. The JSR shop is located in Stayner, Ontario and the 2014 ChumpCar races were held near Ottawa and London, Ontario and Montreal, Quebec. The closest practice facilities are near Hamilton, Ontario. The geography and transportation and accommodation costs are a challenge for the team.
“I spend half my time securing funding so that we’re able to compete. Although we’ve selected what could arguably be the most economical racing series in North America, solely for Soldier On members, there are still significant logistical, safety and competition costs. Our goal is to secure enough funding to provide this program to it’s participants at no cost,” said Schwemler.
The cars travel approximately 2400 kilometres per event. That burns fuel, wears out brakes and tires, tests the engine and other parts of the cars. JSR will provide equipment and leftover resources from its stock car program until the ChumpCar program is financially independent.
“Each driver requires customized safety gear. For the level of protection that the JSR crew feels confident with providing SO members, the budget will fall around $2,000 per person. Ideally, individuals will be able to retain the equipment at the end of the five-race season,” explained Schwemler.
The Soldier On program was founded in 2007 as a joint initiative of the Canadian Paralympic Committee and the Department of National Defence. It aims to use sport to improve the quality of life of current and former Canadian Forces personnel who have suffered major injuries.
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