Race2Recovery, the group of predominantly injured soldiers who formed a rally team to raise funds for Forces charities, were today in South America ready to begin their challenge to become the first ever disability team to complete the world’s toughest race – the Dakar Rally.
The team’s four Wildcat race vehicles will take to the start line in Lima, Peru on the morning of Saturday 5 January, signalling the start of 15 days of racing 9000km over extreme mountain and desert terrain that will take them through southern Peru, across the border into Argentina, and finally travelling into Chile where they hope to cross the finish line in Santiago on Sunday 20 January.
In the last 24 hours, a host of celebrities have taken to social networks to show their support for the team and its fundraising efforts. Olympic and Paralympic superstar Oscar Pistorius, a known motoring enthusiast, sent a video message to the Race2Recovery team in which he commended them for putting the focus on ability rather than disability. Elsewhere online, a message of good luck was tweeted to the team from a variety of sporting stars including England rugby captain Chris Robshaw, rugby legends Martin Offiah and Lawrence Dallaglio, Dame Kelly Holmes, Olympic rower Pete Reed, British women’s tennis player Anne Keothavong and Paralympians David Weir, Hannah Cockroft, Jody Cundy and Nathan Stephens. Messages of support also appeared on the official social networking feeds of a number of other celebrities including Lorraine Kelly, Robbie Williams, Michelle Mone, Theo Paphitis, Ben Fogle and Carol Vorderman amongst others. Chelsea FC also sent a message of support to Race2Recovery co-driver Corporal Tom Neathway, a lifelong fan of the club.
Race2Recovery has also received Royal backing when, in November, it became the first ever recipient of a grant from the Endeavour Fund, set up by the Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry. Nick Booth, Chief Executive of the Royal Foundation, said: “The Royal Foundation is delighted to be supporting the Race2Recovery team through the Endeavour Fund. Not only is it a fantastic challenge for those involved but we hope their success will also provide inspiration for many others who may be wounded, injured or sick and will be motivated to try their own sporting or other challenges as part of their recovery”. The team has attracted top level sponsors to help them fund the racing element of the team and offer key technical expertise and equipment, including Land Rover, Google, Bosch, Orange Plant and MIS Motorsport.
The Race2Recovery team has rapidly risen to become a fully functioning rally raid team in only 18 months. Originally beginning their campaign with one Land Rover Freelander and a handful of members, the team now totals 28 people with four Wildcat race vehicles and fleet of support vehicles including a 4×4 truck that will race the course in order to support the race cars, plus 8×8 support trucks and a number of Land Rover Discovery vehicles to help move the support team and mechanical equipment.
The team operates to the motto ‘Beyond Injury – Achieving The Extraordinary’, and set up its Dakar Rally challenge in order to inspire people who may be injured, ill or facing adversity. Through its racing activity, Race2Recovery has been raising money for Tedworth House Personnel Recovery Centre, one of six Personnel Recovery Centres that have been established as part of the Defence Recovery Capability. The Defence Recovery Capability is an MOD-led initiative in partnership with Help for Heroes and The Royal British Legion to ensure wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women have access to the key resources they need as they recover. Donations to the Race2Recovery fundraising campaign can be made at www.race2recovery.com
Speaking from Lima ahead of the start of the race, Captain Tony Harris, 31, one of Race2Recovery’s rally drivers who is a below the knee amputee as a result of injuries suffered while serving in Afghanistan, said: “Having been part of Race2Recovery right from the beginning and having put in so much work, along with the rest of the team, it feels surreal to finally be in Lima and be hours away from revving up on the start line. There were times this year when we were working day and night on the vehicles, with team members sleeping on the workshop floor before getting up and starting all over again. The way the team has developed in only eighteen months, from a few guys with one Land Rover to a team of 28 with a fleet of race and support vehicles is phenomenal.
“We really want to make all the people who have supported us proud, whether that’s family and friends, our sponsors, our extended team and all the public and media who have been so encouraging and have backed us all the way. We’re here to enjoy the experience but we’re also here as a serious team with a serious goal of getting our four race cars across that finish line. We’re proud that our efforts have been able to fundraise for Tedworth House Personnel Recovery Centre, a cause close to mine and the team’s hearts, and we urge people to log on to our website and donate.”
Race2Recovery Team Manager, Warrant Officer Andrew Taylor, who suffered a serious back injury after being caught in a suicide bomb attack during active service in the Royal Army Medical Corps, said: “To have been able to see this team grow and progress, in such a short space of time, fills me full of pride. It’s been a privilege to work alongside every single one of the team, be they the injured soldiers or the civilian volunteers. The Race2Recovery team is out here in Peru, to start the world’s toughest rally raid race, because it deserves to be. We’re here amongst the professional, experienced teams and we’ve been getting a huge amount of attention. It’s a very positive message that the team are communicating through this challenge – that people can achieve extraordinary things beyond their injuries. Whilst we’re getting a huge amount of support out here in South America, we know we’re also continuing to get a massive amount of support from back home. It means a lot and the whole team, from race crews to the support crew, will be doing our utmost to complete our challenge of being the first ever disability team to finish the Dakar Rally”.
To follow the Race2Recovery team’s progress on the Dakar Rally or to make a donation to the fundraising effort visit the website www.race2recovery.com or to donate £5 via mobile, text RACE20 £5 to 70070. The team are also encouraging people to follow them on Google+ (Race2Recovery), Twitter (@race2recovery) and Facebook.