On Saturday afternoon when many were nursing a Fruity induced hangover, the race2recovery team were crossing the finishing line of the toughest endurance motor race, the Dakar Rally in South America.
After completing the 15 day, 9,000km event, the team were unsurprisingly delighted: “Our team motto is ‘beyond injury – achieving the extraordinary’ and we’ve done just that.”
Co-driver Corporal Philip ‘Barney’ Gillespie, who lost a leg in Afghanistan when he stood on an IED and his driver Major Matt O’Hare may have finished the event last, but in doing so they became the first ever disability team to finish the legendary event which used to be run from Paris to Dakar in Senegal until safety concerns forced it to move to South America in 2010.
They were the only one of the four race2recovery cars to finish the event and were supported by a crew of twenty-six that was predominantly made up of other injured servicemen and women. It wasn’t all plain sailing for them however, overheating issues meant they were forced to drive most of the stages at night to keep the engine cool and keep them in the event.
Major O’Hare and Corporal Gillespie nursed their Qt Wildcat 500DKR nicknamed “Joy” to the finish using all the team’s resources and were quick to show their gratitude towards the team at then end: “Our mechanics and support team have kept us in the race and their work and dedication was second to none.” The crews from the retired race2recovery cars provided essential support too, all to ensure the car reached the finish line in the Chilean capital, Santiago.
Three of the four race2recovery cars dropped out of the event within forty-eight hours. Of these cars, two were forced to retire through mechanical failure, while the other was involved in a crash and could not continue.
Since Saturday the team have been receiving congratulations from all over the world including a personal message of congratulations from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge who said the team had “shown the world what true valour looked like” and that what the team has achieved is “a triumph of perseverance and teamwork.”
The purpose of the exercise was to raise awareness and money for injured servicemen and women through Help for Heroes, especially the Tedworth House Personnel Recovery Centrein Wiltshire.
After this monumental effort, it now just remains to be seen what else this team of extraordinary people can achieve when they set their minds to it. Keep an eye out for them in the future.