RACE2RECOVERY team of injured soldiers revving up for start of world’s toughest rally
RACE2RECOVERY, the group of predominantly injured soldiers who formed a rally team to raise funds for Forces charities, were today in South America ready to begin their challenge to become the first ever disability team to complete the world’s toughest race – the Dakar Rally.
The Race2Recovery team includes Corporal Phillip Gillespie, 24, from Ballymena, Northern Ireland, who serves with 1 Royal Irish. He was part way through his third tour of Afghanistan when a blast from an IED blew off his right leg below the knee and inflicted multiple fractures to his left leg. Corporal Gillespie joined Race2Recovery as a co-driver only five months after sustaining his injuries and recently featured in a documentary series, broadcast on Eurosport in December 2012, following the progress of the team.
The team’s four Wildcat race vehicles will take 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 that will take them through southern Peru, across the border into Argentina, and finally travelling into Chile where they hope to cross the finish line in Santiago on Sunday, January 20.
In the last 24 hours, a host of celebrities have taken to social networks to show their support for the team and its fundraising efforts. Olympic and Paralympic superstar Oscar Pistorius, a known motoring enthusiast, sent a video message to the Race2Recovery team in which he commended them for putting the focus on ability rather than disability. Elsewhere online, a message of support was tweeted to the team from a variety of sporting stars including England rugby captain Chris Robshaw, rugby legends Martin Offiah and Lawrence Dallaglio, Dame Kelly Holmes, Olympic rower Pete Reed, British women’s tennis player Anne Keothavong and Paralympians David Weir, Hannah Cockroft and Nathan Stephens. Messages of support also appeared on the official social networking feeds of a number of other celebrities including Lorraine Kelly, Robbie Williams, Michelle Mone, Theo Paphitis, Ben Fogle and Carol Vorderman amongst others. Chelsea FC also sent a message of support to Race2Recovery co-driver Tom Neathway, a lifelong fan of the club.
Race2Recovery has also 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. Nick Booth, Chief Executive of the Royal Foundation, said: ““The Royal Foundation is delighted to be supporting the Race2Recovery team through the Endeavour Fund. Not only is it a fantastic challenge for those involved but we hope their success will also provide inspiration for many others who may be wounded, injured or sick and will motivated to try their own sporting or other challenges as part of their recovery”. The team has attracted top level sponsors to help them fund the racing element of the team and offer key technical expertise and equipment, including Land Rover, Google, Bosch, Orange Plant and MIS Motorsport.
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. Donations to the Race2Recovery fundraising campaign can be made at www.race2recovery.com
Speaking from Lima ahead of start of the race, Corporal Gillespie said: ““I’m so glad that we’re finally here at the Dakar. It’s been a whirlwind journey, with some crazy times along the way. The hard work and dedication that the team has put in has been exceptional. I hope that people see our team, that includes injured soldiers such as myself, and realise that life is about ability not disability. Our team motto has always been Beyond Injury, Achieving The Extraordinary and I know that the efforts of our team over the coming days, under extreme pressure in the toughest race in the world, will do this motto proud.
“It’s great to be out here in Peru and to see the team getting so much attention from the public and from the media. The team don’t deserve anything less and that doesn’t just go for the direct race team, it’s for the wider support team and sponsors who have been there every step of the way for us. We’ve really felt the support that’s been behind us and I know that people back home in Northern Ireland will be right behind me and the team. The chance to be one of the team’s co-drivers is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I can’t wait to get racing.”
Race2Recovery Team Manager, Warrant Officer Andrew Taylor, who suffered a serious back injury after being caught in a suicide bomb attack during active service in the Royal Army Medical Corps, said: “To have been able to see this team grow and progress, in such a short space of time, fills me full of pride. It’s been a privilege to work alongside every single one of the team, be they the injured soldiers or the civilian volunteers. The Race2Recovery team is out here in Peru, to start the world’s toughest rally raid race, because it deserves to be. We’re here amongst the professional, experienced teams and we’ve been getting a huge amount of attention. It’s a very positive message that the team are communicating through this challenge – that people can achieve extraordinary things beyond their injuries. Whilst we’re getting a huge amount of support out here in South America, we know we’re also continuing to get a massive amount of support from back home. It means a lot and the whole team, from race crews to the support crew, will be doing our utmost to complete our challenge of being the first ever disability team to finish the Dakar Rally”.
To follow the Race2Recovery team’s progress on the Dakar Rally or to make a donation to the fundraising effort visit the website 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.
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Weather for Ballymena
Monday 20 May 2013
Temperature: 7 C to 14 C
Wind Speed: 17 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 8 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 15 mph
Wind direction: North west