The Dakar Rally with Race2Recovery: Reaching the end
So they did it. On a Chilean mountainside, Daniel ‘Baz’ Whittingham became only the second amputee ever to complete the Dakar Rally, and the first in the truck category. He follows his Race2Recovery team mate, Philip ‘Barney’ Gillespie, who became the first amputee to complete the Dakar last year when he teamed up with Major Matt O’Hare in a Wildcat rally car.
At the finish of the special stage, three exhausted men slumped against their truck. “We haven’t shed any tears yet,” said Whittingham. “It’s more a sense of relief than anything. When both of the rally cars went out so early in the rally, we knew it was down to us. We were all so determined.”
“This is the hardest driving challenge I’ve ever taken on,” said Mark Cullum, who once finished second in the famous Camel Trophy. “It’s a huge test for everyone, both in the cab and in the support team.” Cullum is a boy’s own hero – you get the impression if someone said, ‘We start again tomorrow,’ he’d be there and he’d do it.
Chris Ratter, who navigated for over 9000km through some of the world’s most inhospitable terrain, also used his mechanical skills to keep the truck going. “You have to look inside yourself,” he said at the finish. “This is a rally that pushes you to the limit in every way and you have to find those hidden reserves. Everyone has them, but most never get to use them.”
Although the team finished at the back of the field, they have played a pivotal role in helping not only the Race2Recovery rally cars before they retired, but others too. During one stage, they even repaired an organiser’s truck that was stranded in the desert and now have a few new friends around the paddock.
This was another great adventure for the Race2Recovery team that culminated in a podium ceremony in the city of Valparaiso that went on until midnight. Although the loss of the cars so early was a major disappointment, the team rallied around an eccentric truck that had been designed for life in a quarry but was now doing the Dakar. Reporting on their epic journey has been a treat, but the last word should go to ‘Baz’:
“When I was blown up in Afghanistan I was told I would never walk again. During my rehabilitation [Team founder] Tony [Harris] advised me to have my leg amputated and also told me about Race2Recovery. Now here I am just a couple of years later – I’m walking and I’ve just completed the Dakar.”
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