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Driven To Dream Like Anyone Else

Posted By HEATHER IBBOTSON, EXPOSITOR STAFF, June 7 th 2008

Russell Lye's wheelchair is no longer an obstacle to loving life in the fast lane thanks to Project Track Champion.

The 27-year-old Brantford man is the assistant pit crew chief on the team that displays a fully operational and wheelchair accessible non-competitive race car across southern Ontario.

"It's awesome," Lye said in a recent interview at the Community Living Brant headquarters on Elgin Street.

Lye has muscular dystrophy and has been confined to a wheelchair since he was about 19. He attended Tollgate Tech and now lives in a Brantford group home. He wears his team T-shirt with pride and carries a hefty briefcase packed with Project Track Champion information and photographs.

Lye said he "fell in love" with the #1 Project Track Champion car from the moment he saw it. "There's only one car like this," he said.

The car was the brainchild of project founder and co-ordinator Denny Snider, of the Durham area.

What started as a drawing sketched on a notepad several years ago has resulted in the transformation of a 1991 Thunderbird into a modified machine boasting a 302-cu. in. engine, 650 Holley carburetor, MSD ignition, full race rims and full roll cage.

What sets the car apart is its wheelchair passenger accessibility. Its roof has been raised eight inches on the passenger side and the floor dropped four inches on the passenger side to accommodate a wheelchair. It also has a board ramp and loading platform.

The project provides those with special needs an opportunity to experience the thrill of being in a real race car.

Snider met Lye last year at the Cayuga Speedway, where the car debuted, and they forged an "instant connection," said Tammi Griffith, a program assistant with Community Living Brant. Becoming involved in Project Track Champion has given Lye a purpose and a sense of inclusion, Griffith said. "It has empowered him."

The car is displayed at race events across southern Ontario and, at some events, is available for eagerly anticipated ride-alongs by wheelchair users.

As assistant pit crew chief, Lye is responsible for demonstrating the vehicle's accessibility when it is on display at cars shows and races.

He also consults a long checklist of safety items on event days and he checks the special Q'Straint restraints that hold wheelchairs in place.

Lye has had a lifelong love of cars and all things mechanical.

He said he has made many new friends and has had a great deal of fun since becoming an important member of the Project Track Champion team.

"It's cool to be part of it," Lye said. The team now has a second car under construction that will be designed to accommodate people with walkers. It is slated for completion in 2009.

Visit www. project-trackchampion.com for more information.

Article ID# 1063372

Reproduced from http://www.brantfordexpositor.ca/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=1063372

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