A Fife war hero, injured whilst serving in Afghanistan, says his fledgling motor racing career is in jeopardy because of a Kirkcaldy hotel.
Former Black Watch soldier Mike Courts claims the Raven Hotel has backtracked on paying £7000 of promised vital sponsorship, which will force him off the track and leaves him with mounting unpaid bills.
Mr Courts was introduced to car racing thanks to his involvement in the veteran’s charity Mission Motor Sport as part of his rehabilitation after breaking his spine whiled serving in Afghanistan in 2011.
After numerous operations and years of physiotherapy, including having to learn to walk again, he has risen to become one of Scotland’s rising stars of the Scottish Motor Racing Club circuit and was about to embark on his first full season of racing, which begins in April.
However, the 26-year-old from Lochgelly claims that is now all in the balance because the hotel’s owners are refusing to return his calls or acknowledge their sponsorship agreement, for which he says has a signed contract.
“The hotel have put in doubt everything that I have worked so hard for, I’m utterly devastated,” Mr Court told the Fife Free Press.
“I couldn’t have picked myself up after being injured in Afghanistan if it wasn’t for racing and the amazing people that I’ve met along the way.
“To be able to get into sport and compete on a level playing field where my injuries don’t have an effect on how I perform is a huge uplift.
“Racing has given me a whole new focus in life, and while I’ve been let down before, nothing has ever been as serious as this.”
Having survived an IED explosion, which killed his two colleagues while serving on his first tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2009, he recovered from the mental trauma largely due to the support of the NHS-led Veteran’s First Point support network.
He later went back for a second Black Watch tour of Afghanistan in 2011.
It was three months into that six-month posting, while taking cover after coming under fire during a routine patrol, that he injured his spine, forcing him to be airlifted back to the UK for emergency treatment.
“I’ve had to battle through a lot of adversity in the last few years and it isn’t in my nature to give in especially after battling back from my injuries, however this time I’m finding it very difficult to find the strength to bounce back,” Mike explained. “I’ve held my end of the agreement and have promoted the hotel and recommended the Raven Hotel to many competing teams within the sport.
“But with their sponsorship accounting for two-thirds of my cost to get me on the track, it’s a disaster right now .
“I’ve been relying on the goodwill of Balgonie Motors for the continued use of a car for testing, but with the season now so close, I can’t see how we can move forward.”
Mike’s claim is just the latest from a number of disgruntled people with disputes with the owners of the recently refurbished business.
Only last week those behind the Raven Hotel Group claimed there was a “witch hunt”underway against the hotel.
Responding to the latest allegations, Scott Brunel, until this week one of the owners, said he was now no longer involved in the business.
“Sadly due to the ongoing witch hunt I have give up my controlling interest in the business and returned to my home overseas,” he said. “I cannot speak for the hotel as I am no longer involved.”
“Any sponsorship would be their issue as it was the hotel that was sponsoring him.”
No one from the Raven Hotel was available for comment at the time of going to press.
Mike is now appealing to business’s across the region in the hope of a new benefactor to save not only his season, but a promising future in motor sport.
There was a glimmer of hope this week after a charity donation page was set up by a kind-hearted Edinburgh woman who learned of Mike’s plight on Facebook.
“It was the only thing I could think of to try and help Mike out of this situation,” said Lisa Forsyth, who started a just giving page earlier this week.
Anyone wanting to donate to the cause can do so by going to www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/Mikemini