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British amputee war heroes set to star in ITV documentary, Dakar Rally: Frontline to Finish Line

Published: 11 April 2013

An exciting new two-part documentary is following a group of injured soldiers as they become the first amputee team to take on the world’s toughest rally

Dakar Rally: Frontline to Finish Line, follows Race2Recovery, a team of seriously injured servicemen from Britain and the US as they take on the world’s toughest rally. The 2 x 1hr series will be aired on ITV4 at 9pm on Wednesday 24th and Friday 26th April 2013. 

The Dakar saw the team race almost 6,000 miles over 15 days through Peru, Argentina and Chile. They tackled some of the most challenging, isolated terrain in the world, from giant sand dunes to the Atacama Desert and the top of the Andes. 

amputee soldier veteran dakar rally

The Dakar is the ultimate test of man and machine versus the elements, but for the Race2Recovery team, there was an added challenge. Each of the four cars contained an amputee serviceman as part of the two-man crew. Co-driver Corporal Tom Neathway, for example, is a triple amputee, having lost both legs and an arm while serving in Afghanistan.

The rally was the culmination of two years hard work. The idea for Race2Recovery grew out of a conversation between Neathway and Captain Tony Harris at Headley Court Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre and quickly grew into a twenty-eight strong rally team, comprised of volunteers and servicemen. Harris became the first amputee driver to enter the Dakar, using a specially adapted clutch pedal. 

The team’s target was to get four Land Rover-based Wildcat vehicles across the finish line, but things did not go according to plan. Within days, three of the Wildcats had been forced to retire, one in a horrifying rollover crash. The tears flowed as the crews saw their dream turn into a nightmare. 

amputee soldier veteran dakar rally

The infamous Dakar had bitten hard but against the odds, the remaining Wildcat, nicknamed ‘Joy’ after the wife of a team benefactor, struggled on. Joy made it to the finish line in Santiago de Chile and in doing so, co-driver Corporal Barney Gillespie became the first amputee to complete the Dakar.

“It is almost two years to the day since I was blown up in Afghanistan,” said Gillespie at the finish. “There were dark days when I thought life as I knew it was over, but I hope I’ve shown that serious injury is no barrier to doing extraordinary things. Everyone here’s been through so much, but we’ve all supported each other. It’s been an emotional journey, but we made it.”

Produced by Gaucho Productions and directed by award winning director Tim Pritchard (Ross Kemp on Gangs), this moving documentary uses a host of different cameras to capture the inside story of the tears, traumas and triumphs. “This has been an amazing story to tell,” says Gaucho Productions Executive Producer, Alistair Weaver. “Everyone involved in the project has been enthralled by the bravery and commitment of the Race2Recovery team. From a bar room chat to the finish line of the Dakar, they have had an extraordinary adventure and we’re thrilled to have brought it to life.”

amputee soldier veteran dakar rally

“We know that Race2Recovery’s endeavors in the desert were closely watched around the world and we are delighted that we can now show the adventure and details of what actually happened in South America,” says John Claridge, Commissioning Editor for ITV4.

The inspirational challenge received Royal backing when 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.  The Duke and Duchess sent the team a personal note of congratulation on their completion of the rally. 

“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.”

amputee soldier veteran dakar rally

Prime Minister David Cameron added his congratulations, telling the team they, “should all be rightfully proud to be the first disabled team to complete what is recognised as one the of the world’s toughest challenges. You have shown that disability should be no barrier to achieving success and have fully lived up to the team motto ‘Beyond Injury – Achieving the Extraordinary’.”

High profile support was also received from a number of celebrities including Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond, Lawrence Dallaglio, Dame Kelly Holmes and Paralympians David Weir, Hannah Cockroft, Jody Cundy 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. 

Dakar Rally: Frontline to Finish Line will be shown on ITV4 Wednesday 24th and Friday 26th April 2013.  

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