A GROUP of mostly injured soldiers set off on a gruelling race in Peru on Saturday.

The Race2Recovery team are raising money for forces charities and hoping to become the first ever disability team to complete the world’s toughest race, the Dakar Rally.

The team includes two Wiltshire soldiers. Corporal Gareth Paterson, a veteran of Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Afghanistan who lives in Tidworth and Major (Retd) John Winskill, who lives in Durrington and served as an infantry officer from 1993 to 2006.

Cpl Paterson became involved in the challenge to give back to the charities that helped him and his wife Nikki when she was paralysed after a motorbike accident.

Major Winskill will be supplying critical support during the rally.

Cpl Paterson said: “I’m so proud to be part of such an inspirational team. To be here in Peru for such a massive race feels unbelievable.

“We’ve been on such a journey as a team and I’m delighted that along the way we’ve been able to raise money for Tedworth House and also inspire people who may be injured, sick or facing adversity.”

The team’s four Wildcat race vehicles set off from Lima on Saturday morning, signalling the start of 15 days of racing 9,000km over extreme mountain and desert terrain through Peru, Argentina and Chile.

But after two days one of the team’s cars was eliminated after a committee of the race organisers ruled Captain Tony Harris and co-driver Cathy Derousseaux had not reached sufficient way points.

Capt Harris said: “To say we’re gutted is an understatement. In the back of our minds we thought this might be a possibility. “I can’t really explain how Cathy and I feel after all the effort and the two years of hard work and training – it’s like a knife through our hearts and hasn’t really sunk in yet. However, we now have to pick ourselves up and channel our personal disappointment into energy and support for the rest of the team.”

A host of celebrities have been showing their support for the team and its fundraising efforts on social networks including Paralympic star Oscar Pistorius, rugby legend Lawrence Dallaglio, athlete Dame Kelly Holmes, presenter Lorraine Kelly, singer Robbie Williams and presenter Carol Vorderman.

The team is raising money for Tedworth House Personnel Recovery Centre and donations can be made at race2recovery.com, where you can also follow the team’s progress.