Double delight as blind soldier to race Ferrari then tie the knot

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A SOLDIER blinded by a roadside bomb in Iraq is set for a weekend that would get anyone's pulse racing.

Ben Shaw (above), 25, of Prestonpans, will race a 70,000 Ferrari around Knockhill race track at speeds of up to 70mph – then dash away to get married.

Before two practice sessions this week, the former rally mechanic had not driven since he was injured in the blast in Basra last year.

His ultimate goal is to break the world blind land speed record, currently set at 165mph on a motorbike.

"I've done a practice lap of Knockhill in a different car, as I think they wanted to make sure I wasn't completely useless behind the wheel before they put me in a 70,000 Ferrari 360 Modena," said Ben.

"That was the first time I had driven since I lost my sight, and it was surprisingly easy. I have to concentrate on the instructions, but things like changing the gears still come naturally, so I've not lost any of the skills involved."

Knockhill instructor Alan Brunton will guide Ben by giving directions based on a clock-face.

The event will be one of the highlights of the two-day Motorfair, Scotland's biggest motor show. But Ben will not be around to enjoy the Sunday programme – as he is getting married to fiance Louise Barbour, 22.

He said: "It is a bit hectic as we are getting everything arranged, but Louise will be there on Saturday to cheer me on, and then we'll head off for the ceremony on Sunday. It will certainly be one of the most memorable weekends of my life."

Ben, originally from Monmouth in Wales, was on his second tour of Iraq in February 2007 with B Company the 2nd Light Infantry.

He was driving the lead vehicle in a patrol outside Basra when a hidden bomb was detonated. Ben was severely wounded by shrapnel, and the vehicle was thrown into an oncoming petrol tanker.

His comrades dragged him from the wreckage and, instead of waiting for a helicopter, drove straight for the British Military Field Hospital – a decision which doctors later said had saved the soldier's life.

"I have flashes of memory, although a lot of it has gone," said Ben. "I can remember arguing with one of the guys about batteries for equipment, and the last thing I remember seeing was a friend holding a towel to my head as we were on the way to the hospital.

"I still had sight in one eye at that point, and I was looking up at him as he told me I was going to be OK."

Ben lost one eye in the explosion, and surgeons were unable to save the other as the optic nerve had been severed.

He also fractured his skull and suffered severe injuries to his face and right arm. His jaw was wired shut for two months, and he has had several operations to reconstruct his face, with more operations scheduled.

Derek Butcher, chief executive officer and owner of Knockhill racing circuit said: "Ben is a fantastic guy, a real inspiration. We're over the moon to be able to give him the opportunity to be coached by one of our instructors and to see him take to the wheel again.

"For him to do the drive in front of the overwhelming crowds at Motorfair, who I'm sure will give him a deserved standing ovation, is the fitting chance for him to take to the track."