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Race2Recovery head to Dakar Rally
Those with a good memory and/or Dave will remember Hammond visiting Race2Recovery, an astonishing team of off-road-racing soldiers that suffered major injuries in Afghanistan. You’ll also remember that it wanted to compete in the grueling Dakar rally - an ambition they’ll fulfill in two days pending today and tomorrow’s technical scrutineering.
Yep, it’s actually happening. And since its Top Gear appearance, the team’s been extremely busy making the necessary preparations - the boys have taken part in the savage Tuareg Rally in North Africa (both cars and their drivers/co-drivers each won a stage), and it’s got official support from Land Rover, which has provided training, technical support, two Discoverys, and a Defender 130.
Tony Harris, the driver from our film that suffered a below-knee amputation during service as an Infantry Officer for the Royal Fusiliers, says: “I’m the optimistic one of the team so I always thought it was something I could achieve - it was touch and go at some points, but to have got what was essentially a volunteer team here is nothing short of incredible.”
“I can’t wait for race day. I’ve got some big-game nerves, but it feels like there’s so much freedom here, particularly after what happened - we can put our worries and bad stuff to one side. Here, it seems like me being blown up has started a new chapter in my life. And seeing the smiles on all of the team’s faces is just amazing.
“We just don’t know how the desert is going to affect those of us with amputations. Because my prosthetic is effectively a pirate’s leg I shouldn’t have too much to worry about. But Tom [the co-driver from our film] has electric legs with moving parts and we’re not sure how they’ll function in the desert.”
The team will cover more than 5,500 miles in just 15 days, charging through Argentina and Chile at speeds of up to 120mph (though not through Dakar, Senegal: the rally’s changed location but kept its name). Not everyone manages to finish the race - just 40% - but using four 283bhp V8-powered QT Wildcats stacks the odds favourably - 60% of them cross the line.
In addition to the four Wildcats and factory-provided Land Rovers, there are two 8x8 support trucks (one MAN, one DAF), and a Renault Kerax 4x4 racing truck/mobile workshop. During the Rally, the four race vehicles will run in two pairs, supporting each other across the course, whilst the support truck follows. The 8x8s, which provide the team’s service areas, and Land Rovers, which transport the mechanics and team management, follow a separate liaison route
As well as driving largely off-road for around 650km a day with only a small pop-up tent to sleep in, the team’ll be dealing with the additional complications of their injuries, which vary from missing limbs and respiratory wounds, to psychological and fragmentation injuries.
The boys’ effort will raise money for Help For Heroes and Tedworth House, one of the five recovery centres set up in partnership between the Ministry of Defence, Help for Heroes and The Royal British Legion.
So, what’s next for Race2Recovery? Tony says: “we never expected the reach of Top Gear - the support from other competitors and the public here has been amazing. It’s encouraged us looking forward, and if this could lead to a team full-time team and sponsor to bring awareness of these gargantuan races to the British public that would be phenomenal. Widening employment opportunities for injured people would be also of huge interest.”