News

May 2nd 2017

Life in the fast lane for reservist Lara

Lara Small pictured at Brands Hatch. Picture courtesy of Colin Port

Lara Small pictured at Brands Hatch. Picture courtesy of Colin Port

The new motorbike racing season is underway for Royal Engineer Search Advisor reservist Lara Small.

 

The Captain of the Army Reserve’s 350 Field Squadron, 33 Engineer Regiment (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) has always had the need for speed and competes for The Army team and for herself up and down the UK as part of the Thundersport GB series.

That’s on top of working as a Manufacturing Engineering Manager at Rolls Royce in Derby.

In the season opener at Brands Hatch, Lara finished 22nd in the GB British Racing Military Services Challenge and technical problems saw her miss the first race of the Thundersport GP1 Sportsman category before achieving a steady 13th in class the second race.

That was followed up by an excellent 13th and 15th placings at Snetterton over the May Bank Holiday weekend.

We managed to catch up with the 31-year-old and ask her a few questions about life in the fast lane.

What was it that got you started in both motorcycling and the Reserve Forces?

Lara Small: “I joined the reserves in order to do more with my free time, develop myself and get some leadership opportunities that I knew would help me later on in my career.

“After getting used to the reserve routine while at University (Tuesday training nights and the occasional weekend), I maintained that rhythm after starting my full-time career at Rolls Royce.

“Moving to Derby meant that I was able to join 350 Field Squadron in Nottingham.

Lara Small Picture courtesy of Ben Martin Photography

Lara Small. Picture courtesy of Ben Martin Photography

“350 are part of the Royal Engineers, within 33 Engineer Regiment who are search and bomb disposal specialists.

“They have been phenomenally supportive towards all of their soldiers who participate in extra-curricular activities, including horse riding, hockey matches, charity events and all triathlon competencies. As motorcycle road racing is considered to be an Army Sport, I have had the backing of 350 Field Squadron ever since I started.

“Riding motorbikes has been in my blood since a very young age. I was given a 50cc moped at 15, with no more power than a hair dryer. It was beige and had a big white box on the back, where I had written ‘if I could go faster, I would’!

“Now I ride a 180bhp Ducati 1198 around famous tracks in the UK, including Brands Hatch, Cadwell and Donington. It’s the feel of speed, power, noise and freedom on the roads that makes me love motorbikes so much.

“With the support of a fellow rider, Rachel Clarke and 350 Field Squadron, I figured out what I needed to race with and got stuck in with the Army Sprint Road Racing Team. “

How long have you been doing motorsports, and how did you get to your current level?

“I started racing in March 2015 and acquired semi-professional status later on that year after getting multiple sponsors on the back of the season’s successes.

“350 Field Squadron support was also a key factor. Thundersport are an amateur racing series, but riders often feed into British Superbikes and beyond.

“I’ve done two full seasons now, the first two on a Honda CB500 (about 50bhp) and my third season has started on the Ducati 1198.

“Amongst some top 15 finishes which is where you need to finish to score points for the main championship, I achieved second place in the 2015 Bike Insurers British Women’s Motorcycle Racers Championship, 11th in the GB Racing British Military Inter-Services Championship 2016 and won the Lowes Trophy for grit, determination and increased competitiveness.”

How did you get involved with the Army team?

“The Army Sprint Road Racing team consists of 10 regular and reservist soldiers. All team members are operationally deployable with many having completed

overseas tours. All the team maintain their full-time military or civilian careers.

“Aged between 23 and 45, the team fund their racing independently, with selected sponsors supporting their progress.

“The Army team have five races each year with Thundersport GB, an excellent and safe race series organiser that runs race meets all over the UK.

“Thundersport GB have been trailblazers in generating the first Inter-Services Championship where the British Army, Royal Navy Royal Marines and the Royal Air Force compete in an exclusive race on the Saturday or Sunday of every race meet.

“The riders also compete in their own classes based on their motorcycle type and capacity, competing in the most competitive amateur race series.”

What other opportunities does being with the Army Reserves provide for your biking career?

“Being a racer requires a certain state of mind. The individual needs courage, drive, determination, patience and fitness.

“My time with 350 Field Squadron and the training for my commission has demanded I demonstrate all of those things, and more

“It is important as a Solider in the Army to be pushed beyond your limits in a controlled environment. Racing compliments this – it takes courage to get on the grid, determination to push forward during a race and courage to stay off the brakes, hold that corner speed and stay on the winning line.

“The desire to succeed is paramount when you’ve come off, your bike is in pieces and you’ve got to push hard to get everything working for the next race deadline.

“This stamina is also critical in the Army when on exercise and you have to get a grip of yourself and your section around you, in order to achieve an objective.”

Lara Small at Brands Hatch. Picture courtesy of Colin Port

Lara Small at Brands Hatch. Picture courtesy of Colin Port

What are your aims for this season and then beyond?

“This season I would like to be top five in the GBRacing British Military Inter-Services Championship and top 10 in my Thundersport racing category. They are big goals and I’d be very proud!

“I am not keen to make motorbike racing more than just a hobby, it’s hard not to get too serious during an amateur race!

“I want to continue proving that everyone can enjoy adrenaline sports and their dreams can be real.”

How do you find time for all of this on top of your civilian career?

“I’m not sure how I fit it all in – I’d hope its organisation and efficiency that keeps my time free for fun!

“I was a Nuclear Manufacturing Engineer for three years and I’ve now returned to within the aerospace industry and hold the position of manufacturing engineering manager.

“It’s the best job I’ve ever had as I can combine my technical expertise with people management.

“The need to support people in their careers compliments the skills I have learnt as a Reservist Officer with 350 Field Squadron.”

Aside from the biking, what are your goals for life and work in general going forward?

“At 31 years old, my parents tell me I should be very proud of what I have achieved! I am a Manufacturing Engineering Manager at Rolls Royce, a Captain in the British Army Reserve and a Motorbike Racer in the fastest amateur race series in the UK.

“I didn’t know I’d be doing any of that when I was studying engineering, joining the cadets at school or when I plodded around on my beige moped.

“The Army has clearly given me confidence and responsibility at a younger age that has allowed me to propel my career forward…..or round a corner faster!”

 

“It is important as a Solider in the Army to be pushed beyond your limits in a controlled environment. Racing compliments this – it takes courage to get on the grid, determination to push forward during a race and courage to stay off the brakes, hold that corner speed and stay on the winning line."