“When you leave the Army, you leave a team that’s moving in one direction,” explains William Babineau, fueler for the No. 19 DXDT Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 driven by Erin Vogel and Michael Cooper. “Everybody has a different job, but you’re all moving in the same direction. The racetrack is the same way; it doesn’t matter if you’re a tire guy, a fueler, a mechanic, and engineer … you’re all moving toward the podium. Operation Motorsport getting you to the track is the same type of environment, which also has high stress and high adrenaline. It’s not the same, but not entirely dissimilar in some of the experience and some of the emotions you get out of it.”
Babineau was a Staff Sergeant in the U.S. Army, serving as a Fire Support Specialist, including a tour in Iraq. Now he is a beneficiary of Operation Motorsport, which seeks to engage service members and veterans who have been wounded or medically retired from service. He joined Operation Motorsport in 2019, first with KohR Motorsports in IMSA before spending last season working on Kevin Boehm’s DXDT/Crowdstrike TCA Honda Civic in TC America.
This year DXDT is expanding its presence with Operation Motorsport and Babineau moves to Fanatec GT World Challenge. He keeps track of the fuel usage, measuring what’s been pumped out of the car after each session, and refuels the car during pit stops — including at VIR during the “Salute to Service” weekend, where Vogel and Cooper took their first GT World Challenge victory.
“Operation Motorsport was started by Diezel Lodder and his wife, Tiffany Lodder,” explains Jason Leach, recovery programs and team manager for Operation Motorsport. “After his 35-year Canadian Army career in the parachute regiment, Diezel was looking for that next thing to give him that sense of purpose, team and identity. Through his introduction to Mission Motorsport and the Race of Remembrance, which takes place in the UK, he saw an opportunity that was missing here in North America to engage medically retired and wounded service members to help give them that sense of still belonging, still being part of a team, and help them get prepared for the next challenge.”
Babineau was one of six Operation Motorsport beneficiaries at VIR. Katrina Williams also works with DXDT, on the No. 58 Mercedes-AMG driven by CJ Moses in GT America. Craig Neri and Cody Reinecker were crewing on Boehm’s Civic in Touring Car. Dustin Burkhalter was crewing for the Skip Barber Racing team in TC America, and Andrew Ostman was working with AOA Racing. Incidentally, at the wheel of AOA Racing’s TCX-class BMW M2 CS was Chris Walsh, a volunteer staff member with Operation Motorsport, making his professional racing debut.
For Babineau, Operation Motorsport has helped prepare him for the next challenge. He’s now looking at a new option for his post-military career.
“It’s brought me something to move my transition forward,” he says. “I kind of left the Army with a, ‘Hey, I wasn’t planning on getting out yet, so now what’s my plan?’ Now I’m going to be at the track, so I’ve got a plan. It’s helped me get ready.
“I’m in college now to be a mechanical engineer. Operation Motorsport has helped me find my direction after the Army, through racing. I think for a lot of us it’s probably the same way. We didn’t know we’d like racing as much as we do, and now we don’t ever want to leave.”