The Race2Recovery blog: Driving through the night
“We’re going back-to-back, this is bad ass,” yelled US Marine Mark Zambon as he and Ben Gott left for the fifth stage. They’d been heavily delayed by a broken propshaft on the previous morning and had had to drive through the night to complete the 708km day. They arrived at the bivouac just in time to start the next stage, not even stepping out of their car as the mechanics replaced a punctured spare wheel. Visibly exhausted but high on adrenaline, the duo were pushing on.
They were not the only ones battling fatigue. Matt O’Hare and Philip ‘Barney’ Gillespie had also driven heroically across the dunes in the dead of night. “We’re exhausted and it’s tough to keep going,” said O’Hare, “but I keep thinking about the charities we’re supporting. That’s what’s driving me on.” “I’ve been able to rest my eyes on the road sections but Matt can’t,” said Gillespie, who lost his right leg serving in Afghanistan. “He’s been amazing.”
O’Hare and Gillespie’s enthusiasm was tempered by the confirmation that the Wildcat of Tom Neathway and Justin Birchall had been forced to retire from the rally. Climbing a dune in the darkness they had suffered terminal damage to their gearbox and transfer box. The car had to rescued by Race2Recovery’s support team in the early hours of this morning.
Neathway and Tony Harris were the key founders of the Race2Recovery project. For both to out in the first week of the rally has been tough on the team. “It’s hard to take because we’d been doing really well,” reckoned Neathway. “I’m gutted but being here and taking part in the Dakar has been an amazing experience and I hope we’ve inspired others to do extraordinary things. Some people said we’d never make it this far, but we proved them wrong.”
As I write, the car of Ben Gott and Mark Zambon has returned safely to the bivouac after a great run in stage 5. O’Hare and Gillespie are currently en route to camp. There’ll be a chance to grab some sleep before another challenging day tomorrow when the teams tackle the Atacama Desert. The special stage is 358km long, plus an extra 410km on the road. Stand by for more drama…
Race2Recovery is the first disabled team ever to enter the Dakar Rally, the world’s toughest motorsport event. Comprised predominantly of British and American servicemen, wounded in action, the team has set out to prove that serious injuries are no barrier to extraordinary achievement, and to raise money for the Tedworth House Personnel Recovery Centre. Donations to the team’s fundraising campaign can be made at www.race2recovery.comTagged in: Ben Gott, Dakar Rally, O' Hare, Race2Recovery, tony harris, wildcat
Latest from Independent journalists on Twitter