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The Race2Recovery blog: The Dakar Rally crossed back over the Andes to Copiapó

race2recovery3 300x225 The Race2Recovery blog: The Dakar Rally crossed back over the Andes to CopiapóYesterday the Dakar Rally crossed back over the Andes to Copiapó, Chile. The journey began with a 392km road section, which should have been a relaxing drive through some of the world’s most desolate and dramatic scenery. But the absence of tarmac made the route over the mountains as perilous as a special stage.

The heady cocktail of giant Dakar trucks, dirt tracks and an altitude approaching 5000m, made for moments of genuine jeopardy. One of the team’s Land Rover Discovery support vehicles was clipped by a competitor car and now bears a Dakar wound. It was a relief that the ‘Joy’, the team’s remaining Wildcat rally raid car, made it to the start of the special stage unscathed.

race2recovery1 300x225 The Race2Recovery blog: The Dakar Rally crossed back over the Andes to CopiapóYesterday’s stage started in Chile and saw the return of the dreaded Dakar dunes. In the soft, sandy conditions, getting stuck is an ever-present danger and for the Race2Recovery team, this was made worse by a technical malfunction. “Joy wasn’t starting properly,” explained driver Matt O’Hare. “This meant we were paranoid about stalling or getting stuck in the sand. It was all about keeping going and conserving momentum.” As I write, the mechanics are preparing to work through the night to fix the problem.

Race2Recovery21 300x225 The Race2Recovery blog: The Dakar Rally crossed back over the Andes to CopiapóO’Hare was full of praise for his co-driver, Philip ‘Barney’ Gillespie, an amputee injured in a bomb blast in Afghanistan. “‘Barney did an amazing job today,” said O’Hare. “We hit every waypoint and at one point we overtook several cars just because we were able to navigate our way around a huge dune.”

Gillespie’s skills and chirpy demeanour have been a key factor in the team’s success. “It’s another stage ticked off but I’m really trying to focus on taking each day as it comes and not to think too much about getting to the end,” he explained. No sooner was he out of the car than he was being handed the routebook for tomorrow’s stage, which includes a 441km offroad section.

While Joy was out playing in the dunes, the team’s US Marines, Mark Zambon and Tim Read, took time out to visit Robby Gordon, who was the first American to win a stage of the Dakar. Gordon devotes his life to winning the rally (he was second on today’s stage) and lives in a different world of posh transporters and hotel rooms. He was, though, hugely impressed with Race2Recovery’s efforts:

“To do this event with two legs is hard enough,” he said, “but to take it on with only one or even no legs is incredible. This is a badass event and these guys are doing an awesome job.”

The Race2Recovery 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.com

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