With the Olympics in full swing, the athletes rely on skill, determination and self belief to get them through their disciplines and on the road to success. Motorsport is much the same, and the drivers and riders in the gruelling Dakar Rally share the same qualities, along with a big dose of bravery. But imagine taking part in the legendary event when you also have a disability. Some might not even contemplate it, but a group of former soldiers, a few who have sustained life-changing injuries from their tours of duty are doing just that.
Race 2 Recovery is a team, set up only 12 months ago to take part in the 2013 Dakar Rally in South America. Made up of injured servicemen they will inspire others to take part in the world’s most famous adventure race.
Not for the faint-hearted, they will face over 5000 miles of inhospitable terrain, adverse weather conditions and will need to use their experience gained in the Armed Forces to get them through this tough challenge.
Land Rover are a sponsor of the team, helping with funding, engineering and parts support. When I visited Jaguar Land Rover headquarters at Gaydon, a few members of the team, Tony Harris and Tom Neathway, both amputees, were on hand to talk about their challenge, whilst Ben Gott, an expert on the Dakar Rally offered passenger rides in the Qt Wildcat.
So not being able to resist the chance to be taken for a spin on the proving ground, I was helmeted up, strapped in and away I went with Ben.
For what was a couple of minutes in the car, Ben demonstrated his driving skill along the loose limestone, getting the 4-litre V8 up to speeds of nearly 100mph, whilst tackling the corners in the 283bhp car with accuracy. Grinning like a Cheshire Cat when I jumped out (or fell out...you can’t do climbing in or out of one of these, complete with roll-cage, gracefully) it is difficult to imagine them spending two weeks every day doing that, racing across Peru, Argentina and Chile, in conditions that will really test their nerve.
In what is a human test of endurance, strategy and perseverance, Race 2 Recovery will be raising funds for the Help 4 Heroes project, the Tedworth House recovery centre, which supports injured servicemen. More information on this heroic challenge can be found at www.race2recovery.com