We spoke to Noel Wilson, who’s blazing a trail for MS at motor sport circuits around the UK.
For most of us, a resolution made at 2am on New Year’s Day is often quickly forgotten in the morning. But not for Noel Wilson. In the early hours of 2016, the former motor sport instructor decided to do something that no one had done before: set an official lap time at every racetrack in the UK – on a mobility scooter.
He told his wife of over 30 years, Karen. ‘She said “Wilson, you’re an idiot. Go to bed!”’ says Noel. But he was not deterred. Using contacts gained during his career, he set about making his resolution a reality, raising awareness and funds for the MS Society along the way.
Diagnosed with MS – and a spinal tumour
Noel, 58, was diagnosed with MS in 2013. Looking back, he thinks his symptoms started in 1992, when he experienced pins and needles and temporarily lost the sight in his left eye.
Years later, the pins and needles returned and became more intense. Noel eventually convinced his GP to send him for an MRI. The scan showed MS lesions, but there was something else too.
‘I had a tumour on my spinal cord. I had surgery to remove it, but there was a problem and they couldn’t get it all. I woke up paralysed – my worse nightmare.’
Noel can now walk short distances using crutches, but mostly gets around using a wheelchair or scooter.
At the home of the British Grand Prix
Noel set his first official lap time at Silverstone – home of the Formula 1 British Grand Prix since 1987. He took to the track during an event organised by the Classic Sports Car Club. ‘At first Silverstone said it could be a problem because I wanted to go on the circuit during the marshals’ break. I said: “I can only go 8mph, I don’t think I’ll need the marshals!”’
Since then, Noel has set official times at 14 circuits, and raised over £12,500.
Conquering the Isle of Man TT
His most ambitious feat so far was completing the 37.7 mile Isle of Man TT route. A year in the organising, it took Noel around 6.5 hours, of which 4 hours 33 minutes were in the driving seat. ‘The rest of the time was battery changes, loo breaks, and feeding the driver!’ Noel explains.
With seven more circuits to complete, Noel hopes to raise over £20,000. And Karen? ‘She’s fully behind me!’