A final training session for the Race2Recovery team took the squad – aiming to be the first team of wounded servicemen to complete the Dakar Rally – to North Africa.
In Morocco and Algeria the 11 strong contingent from the team encountered the same mix of terrains and conditions they will have to conquer if they are to fulfil their aim of reach Santiago on January 19 after completing the rally route, which this year starts in Lima, Peru.
In Land Rover Defenders – rather than the Bowler Wildcats they will pilot in South America – the team crossed the Atlas Mountains, before taking on treacherous boulder fields and the dunes of the desert. Under the tutelage of off-rad driving expert Mark Cullum the team were taught the best way to approach the dunes in the cars, as well identify areas of soft and hard sand and how to get the cars out of trouble when stuck in dunes – almost an inevitability on the Dakar Rally route through the Atacama Desert.
As well as the obvious the time in Africa also came with lessons on mechanical sympathy – crucial on the long stages of the Dakar – and experience of how sand, dust and variations in temparatures will affect team member’s artificial limbs.
“The past few days, together with the earlier training session out here in November, has provided us with knowledge, understanding and most importantly increased confidence to competently negotiate the tough varied terrain we face in January,” said Captain Tony Harris, a below the knee amputee and one of the race drivers on the Dakar.
“With less than a month to go before the start of the race, we are in a good position with a strong crew and I am confident of our chances to be the first disabled team to finish the Dakar.”
In total four Race2Recovery teams will start the Dakar Rally from Lima on January 5, as well as Cullum, who will be driving the team’s support trucks on the route. As well as making history by reaching the finish line the team are also raising money for Tedworth House, a rehabilitation centre for injured armed services personnel.
Race2Recovery 2013 Dakar Rally teams
#373 – Tony Harris/Catherine Derousseaux
#423 – Ben Gott/Mark Zambon
#440 – Justin Birchall/Tom Neathway
#445 – Matt O’Hare/Philip Gillespie