QUOTE FROM DUKE AND DUCHESS OF CAMBRIDGE
- Category: Race Blog
THE Duke and Duchess of Cambridge sent a personal message of congratulations yesterday (Sunday 20 Jan 2013) to the Race2Recovery team of severely injured soldiers and civilian volunteers following their historic success in completing the gruelling Dakar Rally in Chile, South America.
The team, made up of mainly British servicemen along with two US Marines – many of them amputees following injuries in Afghanistan - set out with four Land Rover-based Wildcat vehicles on January 5th but only one vehicle, manned by Major Matt O’Hare, 32, and Corporal Phillip ‘Barney’ Gillespie, 24, crossed the finishing line late on Saturday evening.
The Duke and Duchess, who have followed the team’s progress since Day One said in their message: “Catherine and I have heard the wonderful news about your success today - many, many congratulations.
“We know it was not easy, but you have today become true record holders as the first ever disability team to complete what is one of the world's toughest challenges.
“What you have achieved was a triumph of perseverance and teamwork, and you have shown the world what true valour looks like. We hope you get some rest now, and, please, no driving like that on our roads when you're back!"
The inspirational challenge 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. It also supported by high-profile sponsors including Land Rover, Google, Bosch, Orange Plant and MIS Motorsport.
Captain Tony Harris, 31, who along with fellow teammate Cpl Tom Neathway founded the Race2Recovery project, said: “We’re extremely grateful for the heartfelt message that we have received from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Along with Prince Harry, their Royal Foundation has provided a huge amount of support to Race2Recovery. We were honoured to become the first ever beneficiaries of a grant from their Endeavour Fund and we are now delighted to have repaid their faith in us by achieving what we set out to achieve. The whole team is buzzing and almost still in a state of disbelief that we have conquered something as massive and challenging as the Dakar Rally. To have secured our place in history by becoming the first ever disability team to complete the world’s toughest race makes this experience even more special – not just for us but for all those people who have supported us and for all those people who may be injured themselves.”
Major Matt O’Hare said: “We’re very appreciative of the message of support that we have received. The backing from the Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry played a huge role in enabling Race2Recovery to form a team and compete at the Dakar Rally. They really bought into what we were trying to do as a team. Our motto ‘beyond injury, achieving the extraordinary’ is something we have lived and breathed and I hope we have done them and all our supporters proud.”
Cpl Phillip Gillespie said: “The messages of congratulations that we continue to receive are hugely valued by myself and the whole team. What’s also great about our success is that it continues to put the spotlight on the value of the recovery process for those servicemen and women who have been injured or ill. A huge goal of ours is to continue our fundraising for Tedworth House Personnel Recovery Centre. We’re passionate about helping people who find themselves in a situation that many members of our team can relate to first-hand. The donations have continued to come in as we’ve been competing and I hope many more people will generously give their money to what we know is a fantastic cause”.
The Race2Recovery team’s four Wildcat race vehicles took to the start line in Lima, Peru on the morning of Saturday 5th January, signalling the start of 15 days of racing 9000km over extreme mountain and desert terrain. The first car eliminated from the race was that of Captain Tony Harris and his co-driver Cathy Derousseaux, who were disqualified after they did not pass sufficient way points on Stage 2 after having experienced mechanic issues during that stage.
A few days later, the race car of driver Justin Birchall and co-driver Corporal Tom Neathway was forced to retire after mechanical issues caused by a particularly punishing Stage 4 that saw a host of other vehicles also retire. On Stage 6, the third car of driver Ben Gott and co-driver US Marine SSgt Mark Zambon hit a ditch at speed and rolled. Whilst they avoided any serious injury the damage to the car meant they were unable to continue the race.
However, the team’s Wildcat vehicle ‘Joy’, donated to the team by the Peter Harrison Foundation and named after Peter’s wife, Joy, who sadly passed away in September last year, remained firmly in the race. Suffering from some over-heating problems during the first half of the rally, the team were regularly forced to do more of their driving at night. However, the team’s mechanics were able to do major work to the vehicle on the event rest day, fixing a number of issues and enabling Major O’Hare and Corporal Gillespie to make great progress through the second week.
The Race2Recovery team will now remain in Santiago, Chile, for the official end to the Dakar Rally – a parade followed by a podium celebration that will take place on Sunday 20th January. They will then stay in the city for several days in order to recover from their challenge and also pack their vehicle fleet so that it can be shipped back to the UK. The team is due to arrive in the UK later this week.
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 4x4 truck that will race the course in order to support the race cars, plus 8x8 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.
The Race2Recovery team aims to continue its charitable fundraising way past the end of this year’s Dakar Rally. The official book, ‘Race2Recovery: Beyond Injury, Achieving the Extraordinary’, will be published by Haynes and FireStep Publishing in March 2013. £2 from every copy will be donated to Help For Heroes (www.haynes.co.uk/race2recovery). The team was also joined in South America by Gaucho Productions, who were capturing all the drama and adventure for a forthcoming documentary series - to be screened on TV soon.
Donations to the Race2Recovery fundraising campaign for Tedworth House Personnel Recovery Centre can be made at 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.