Bentley factory driver Andy Soucek will perform a dual role during this weekend's Blancpain GT Series finale at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya when he lends his support to a fundraising effort that continues the legacy of his fellow Spanish racer, Maria de Villota.
Part of the well-known De Villota racing family and a highly-experienced competitor in her own right, Maria suffered a serious accident in July 2012 while testing for the Marussia Formula 1 team. This resulted in severe head and facial injuries, including the loss of her right eye, though she made a remarkable recovery and went on to write an autobiography titled La Vida Es Un Regalo (Life Is a Gift). Tragically, the accident and subsequent surgeries led to her death in October 2013, at the age of just 33.
Since then her family have sought to continue her legacy and values through Legado Maria de Villota. Long-time Blancpain GT Series racer Soucek has joined the project, which will play an important role during this weekend's event at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
"I had the pleasure of sharing the track with Maria in categories such as Formula 3 and Superleague Formula," explains Soucek. "Recently, I was named ambassador for the legacy. I want to be clear that it's not a foundation: it's a movement that helps other charities to raise money for people who really need it.
"Maria had many operations after her accident, which meant that she spent a lot of time in hospital. She realised that before this she didn't see life as it really was; her only goal was to be the best driver. As she says in her book, things were going past quickly like drops of water on your visor when you're racing a single-seater.
"After the accident, she realised that she wanted to help other people, based on her own values. Her family, who are very strong, have decided to carry on her legacy."
The money raised this weekend will go to Fundación Ana Carolina Diez Mahou, which supports children suffering from neuromuscular and mitochondrial diseases. "Every Euro helps them to have a better quality of life," says Soucek. "The money raised by everything we are doing this weekend will be given to this foundation.
"The motorsport family is small, but we can have a great impact in terms of media and people hearing us," he continues. "Therefore, we have to get together and try to promote the values of the legacy."
The main activity will be a charity dinner at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, which is set to take place this evening (Thursday) at 20.30 CET. By donating to secure their table, attendees will also have the opportunity to win a number of prizes that have been donated for the event.
"We've been overwhelmed by people and by companies," says Soucek. "For example, M-Sport is giving us a passenger ride with a WRC car, and Volkswagen has given us driving experiences in Spain. There will be a lot of other really cool prizes, such as VIP packages for the Total 24 Hours of Spa next season and grid passes for this Sunday's race. Thanks to SRO, we will also do some VIP night laps during the dinner."
The attendees at the event will include a host of Spanish motor racing stars, with Pol Espargaro, Alex Rins, Carlos Checa and Luis Moya among those showing their support. Soucek's fellow Bentley Boys will be present, too.
"I'm really thankful to my teammates for joining," says Soucek. "It's not a cheap dinner, but when I told them they said they would come and help. I really appreciate that I can count on all my teammates, because it's a very special event for me."
What's more, all of the food that catering does not use this evening will go to charity.
"There's always food left at the end of a weekend so it makes sense to give it all away. This should be done at every track. We want to create a precedent that starts here and carries on at every single race meeting. It doesn't just have to be SRO – in every series, we would like people to spend five minutes thinking about those who need it more. It's the least we can do."
More information on Legado Maria de Villota can be found here.