ONLY one Race2Recovery team car is still in the race to complete the gruelling Dakar Rally as a third car pulls out.
The team of injured soldiers and civilian volunteers started the race last Saturday in Lima, Peru with four cars competing but now only Major Matt O’Hare and co-driver Phillip Gillespie can fulfil the team’s aim of becoming the first disabled team to complete the challenge, known as the toughest race in the world.
The first car was forced to retire after two days when a race committee ruled they had not met sufficient way points and a second was forced to pull out after day four due to a mechanical failure.
Now driver Ben Gott and co-driver Staff Sergeant Mark Zambon have retired after an in-race accident which saw their car hit a ditch and roll several times in the desert in Chile.
Gott requested medical assistance using the in-car safety system. A medical team was sent by the event organisers and a Dutch race crew nearby were sent to help. They managed to right the car and get SSgt Zambon out of the vehicle. Gott, who complained of back pain, stayed in the vehicle until the medical team arrived.
Gott, 35, from Alton in Hampshire, suffered an injury to his back was taken to hospital in Calama, Chile, tests before being discharged. SSgt Zambon, 27, a double amputee US Marine from San Diego, suffered bruising and was taken for observation at the medical centre at the event bivouac.
Three members of the team travelling in a support vehicle involved in a collision on Wednesday are described as stable and recovering well.
John Winskill, Justin Birchall and Lee Townsend have now released a joint statement which said: “We would like to extend our heartfelt sympathies to the family and friends of the two people who lost their lives in the tragic incident that took place near Tacna. We would also like to wish a full and speedy recovery to the others who were hurt.
“Our thanks and gratitude go out to the hospital staff and authorities for their help and for treating us with such kindness and respect, which has been so typical of the Peruvian people throughout our stay.”
Team manager Warrant Officer Andrew Taylor said: “It’s been a baptism of fire and we’ve experienced everything that goes hand in hand with the Dakar Rally, which we can now testify as to being the toughest race in the world. The team has performed in an outstanding way given the scale of the challenge and has put in hours and hours of hard graft during all hours of the day.”
Follow the team’s progress at race2recovery.com.