A former Marine whose leg was amputated after a road crash is embarking on a new fast track career in motorcycle racing.
Mark Fincham, 31, had part of his leg removed after a catastrophic accident in 2007 when he was hit by a car while riding his motorcycle.
Refusing to allow his injury to change his life, Mark went on to return to the Marines and, after joining Civvy Street last year, is now planning to combine working for the family engineering business with a busy programme of motorcycle racing.
Mark, who was born and raised in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, decided to join the Royal Marines after seeing a presentation at his sixth form and being told it was difficult to join.
“As soon as I knew it was difficult, I really wanted to do it,” he laughed.
“I absolutely loved being a Marine: the challenge, the camaraderie and I loved all the courses I was able to take - I learned about nuclear, biological, jungle and Arctic warfare and I enjoyed every minute of it.”
In March 2007, when he was on leave from his duty on-board a military ship, Mark was involved in an accident which would change his life forever.
While riding his motorbike, a car took a U-turn in front of him smashing into his vehicle, sending him flying through the air and breaking his back, pelvis, leg and ankle.
“I remember various bits about the accident - flying through the air and thinking I was going to hit a tree, the paramedic cutting my leathers and looking at my leg which pointing in all sorts of different directions,” Mark explained.
“I was driven to hospital and I asked if I could be put back together. My back was set and my leg from hip to ankle was pinned.
“When I woke up, the doctor said to me that I would probably never run or walk in the same way again. I said to them, then and there, ‘cut it off, then’.”
Doctors decided not to amputate Mark’s damaged foot and he was sent to a military rehabilitation unit to recuperate.
“I knew straight away that if my leg wasn’t the same as it was before, it would cause problems to my career in the Marines. In the end, my ankle had to be fused and I had to learn to walk all over again,” said Mark.
“As soon as I could walk, I started to run but the ankle just couldn’t take it and I kept breaking it. In the end, I said to the doctor: ‘this is ridiculous. Can you just cut it off?’”
In October 2009, part of Mark’s leg was amputated, the first of three such operations, and he was fitted with a prosthetic limb.
“When I woke up and it was gone, there was a massive sense of relief. I knew another man in the Marines who’d lost a leg and knew that he’d gone on to have a great career with them, so I knew I could do it too," he said.
“Before I had the operation, I couldn’t even bear the weight of a quilt on my ankle because it was so painful. Suddenly, all that pain had disappeared.”
Within a matter of weeks, Mark was walking again. Three months after his operation, he was running.
Throughout his recovery, Mark hadn’t lost his confidence with motorcycles, buying a new one before he was able to walk after the accident.
“I’ve ridden bikes since I was about 13 and I’ve always loved them,” he said.
“I started doing track racing days when I was about 19. When I had a lot of sick leave after the accident, I’d spend days at the track.
“I started to get a bit frustrated on the track days because I didn’t have anyone to chase. Even the racers in the fast group couldn’t go as fast as I could.”
When he left the Marines after 10 years in early 2011, Mark - who works as an engineer for his father’s company, Eurotech Precision - decided to commit more time to racing.
Marks’s first competitive race will be at Snetterton on March 24. Beginning in the rookie class and riding on his Kawasaki ZX10 R 1000cc sports bike, he will compete in 10 races before progressing through the ranks.
“The only difference that my leg makes is that I have got an adapted gear shift because I don’t have the power in my gear-shifting leg,” he said.
“I can’t wait: I’m a bit nervous of embarrassing myself but I’m going all out to win.”
Since his catastrophic accident in 2007, Mark has had another accident while racing at Mallory Park, in Leciestershire. While driving at 120mph, he came off his bike which catapulted into a barrier and ended up in the grandstand.
“I got up and the bike had disappeared!” laughed Mark, “I was thinking: 'where is it?!'"
“I don’t let myself feel scared because then you couldn’t get on the bike. My attitude is the same as the one I have for life - just get on with things and get them done.”
Mark has received sponsorship from insurance broker Chartwell, based near King’s Lynn.
Gerry Bucke, general manager of Chartwell, said Mark’s was an inspirational story.
“Mark is living proof that you can overcome tremendous obstacles in life to achieve your ambitions,” he added.
“He is a fearless young man and we’re looking forward to seeing how far he can go in the motorcycle racing world.”