Pirelli's director of motorsport, Paul Hembery, has been appointed as a trustee of The Richard Burns Foundation, the charitable trust formed in memory of the 2001 world rally champion.
In the tenth anniversary year of Burns' title, RBF has re-focused its charitable endeavours to support the establishment of a Brain Centre with the Brain & Spine Foundation as part of a wider mission to establish an improved national network of advice and specialist support for those suffering from neuro injury and illness in the UK.
Hembery's extensive experience, both in motorsport and in a commercial context, will assist the Foundation reach an ever-wider audience and support its mission to use Burns' memory to help others facing neurological illness.
"Richard was the first world champion I worked with, and he set the bar in terms of being a highly motivated and competitive athlete, while remaining a very grounded, decent person," Hembery commented, "I was proud to call him a friend, and taking on the role of trustee for the Foundation is a privilege."
Hembery joined Pirelli in 1992, initially in a research and development role as an engineer, before being promoted to look after Pirelli's markets in the Asia Pacific. In 2000, he took charge of Pirelli's motorsport portfolio, and a year later as tyre supplier to Subaru, where he was part of the team that delivered Burns' World Rally Championship. While 2011 will see him overseeing Pirelli's new motorsport engagement as the official tyre supplier to F1, Hembery is well-aware of the tradition of supporting grass-roots motorsports initiatives it shared with Burns.
"Despite becoming an international star, Richard always maintained a common touch and never forgot the support network that had helped him progress from the Peugeot Challenge to the World Rally Championship," he noted, "Just like Pirelli, I hope the Foundation will continue to follow Richard's example and recognise that our future is in our youth and whatever can be done to help young people disadvantaged by neurological illness and injury will be a fitting way to remember our friend. The task to establish a Brain Centre gives us a clear focus for this year."
Every year in the UK, over a million people suffer some form of head injury or illness, with over half under the age of 18. Despite head injury and illness being the biggest killer of males until their mid-twenties, only four per cent of England & Wales' 760 acute hospitals have specialist neuro units. The Richard Burns Foundation is committed to spreading awareness of the prevalence of neurological injury and disorder and to assist in fund-raising to help close this gap between need and scarce provision.