Inspiration can be defined and exemplified in many ways. Through the two very different worlds of military service and sports car racing, Staff Sgt. Liam Dwyer’s bravery has proved a shining example of inspiration.
Dwyer, a recently retired Marine veteran who nearly died in Afghanistan in 2011, will compete in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge Street Tuner class in the Continental Tire 150 at The Glen this Saturday at Watkins Glen International. It’s part of the annual Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen Weekend.
On May 22, 2011, the Connecticut native, was leading a patrol on a Taliban stronghold when he stepped on a pressure plate Improvised Explosive Device. The explosion took off his left leg. He suffered severe injuries to other limbs and took shrapnel in his abdomen and torso.
Four other Marines also were wounded. Dwyer’s life was saved by Sgt. Aaron Denning, who applied tourniquets and helped carry him about 100 yards to a waiting helicopter. Several months later, Denning would be badly injured by an explosive device (and has since recovered).
That was the second such incident in Dwyer’s military career. He was badly wounded when hit by an explosive device while serving in Iraq in 2007.
In the time following his latest ordeal, Dwyer has endured extensive rehab and gone on to race with Freedom Autosport in the Continental Tire series through the use of a custom made prosthesis that begins above his left knee. He retired from the Marines on May 30.
“I remember talking the night before the explosion with Sgt. Tony Ward,” Dwyer said. “I remember going out the next day to search a compound and while there I stepped on the IED and it exploded. That’s what I remember.”
Following his long recovery Dwyer jumped behind the wheel of the Freedom Autosport Mazda MX- 5 .
On Memorial Day Weekend of 2014, three years to the day after his ordeal, he and co-driver Tom Long scored a victory at Dwyer’s home track, Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Conn.
Last month, Dwyer took the Freedom Autosport Mazda to victory again, this time pairing with new co-driver Andrew Carbonell (Miami, Fla.) and winning at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. Denning of Simi Valley, Calif., was there to witness the triumph.
“Since he saved my life we really have a special relationship and I talk to him every week,” Dwyer said of Denning. “He’s become a big part of my life and it was so special that he got to be with us when we won at Monterey.”
Dwyer said that he has had two main goals in life and that he has achieved them. He also has his own definition of bravery.
“There is a similar yet very different type of bravery when comparing the military and racing,” said Dwyer. “The risks are not nearly as great in racing as when you are serving in the military during wartime. Serving in the military is the most honorable thing one can do.
“When I was younger, I had two main goals in life. The first was to serve in the Marine Corps, and the second was to be a race car driver. I’ve achieved both of them. I did some racing before my ordeal. Perhaps in the future I may get involved in encouraging servicemen in their education. I’m grateful for what I have.
“I’ve seen the Watkins Glen track and I raced there last year in the NASA race. I loved it. It’s high speed, fun and takes a lot of bravery.”
Freedom Autosport will race in the ST class at The Glen against Team Sahlen and Elma’s Joe Sahlen. Sahlen is entered in the team’s No. 43 Porsche Cayman along with co-driver Jeff Segal (Miami, Fla). Brothers Will and Wayne Nonnamaker (North Canton, Ohio) are entered in the No. 42 car.
On Sunday, the Tudor United SportsCar Championship will take center stage with the Prototypes, Prototype Challenge, GTLM and GTD classes in competition in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen.
Prototype driver Jordan Taylor arrives at The Glen on the highest of highs after winning the GTE Pro for Team Corvette nearly two weeks ago in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The French classic, endurance-style race is considered the most prestigious sports car race in the world.
Taylor, of Apopka, Fla., teamed with co-drivers Tommy Milner (Ashburn, Va.) and Oliver Gavin (Yardley Hastings, England) to win at Le Mans. Taylor will compete in the Tudor Championship Prototype class in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen with teammate and brother Ricky Taylor and Max Angelelli of Monte Carlo. Taylor’s father, Wayne Taylor, owns the team’s No. 10 Konica Minolta Prototype Corvette DP entry.
“I don’t think winning Le Mans is going to sink in for a while and it seems so surreal,” Taylor said. “I mean, all my life I’ve seen pictures of the Le Mans trophy but to now have my own in the house is unreal. My dad won at Le Mans in 1998 and the fact that he was at Le Mans this year to share everything with me is so special.
“After I took the checkered flag at Le Mans, it got real emotional, real fast. My dad told me he was proud and happy for me. Now I am ready for The Glen.
Taylor earned pole starts at The Glen in 2011 and ‘12 in the GT class.
“So far in Prototypes I have been fast there and we’ve had a good pace in our races in the Sahlen’s Six Hours but bad luck, mechanical problems and team penalties have stopped me from winning at The Glen,” he said.
“Perhaps some of my Le Mans good fortune will go with me to Watkins Glen because if I can win the race at Watkins Glen, just two weeks after the Le Mans win, that would be so cool and incredible.”
On-track action at The Glen begins Thursday and continues through Sunday. The Tudor Championship and Continental Tire Series are joined by the Cooper Tires Prototypes Lites, Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge and the Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo Series. Check theglen.com for race times and other information.