Ex-Royal Marine, Grant White, takes Avaunt through the equipment he used as part of the first disabled team to compete in the most challenging motorsport race, the Dakar Rally.
Race2Recovery was conceived as a platform to showcase the plight of British and US servicemen injured in conflict and to change the perceptions of people with disabilities. The team set themselves the aim of finishing the Dakar Rally, and acquired the motto ‘Beyond Injury, Achieving the Extraordinary’. With the help of our very generous supporters, R2R became the first disabled team to compete in, and complete, the world’s hardest motorsport race: not once but twice.
R2R continues to provide off-road motor racing experiences for people with life-changing injuries and tirelessly campaigns the world of motorsport to change regulations, in order to increase the participation of the disabled. Staffed completely by a loyal group of volunteers, the team relies upon charitable donations to support our disabled servicemen and provide them with rewarding and life-enhancing experiences.
The R2R Wildcat is the team’s weapon of choice when it comes to desert racing. Shown without its body shell, the racing car is powered by a 4-litre V8 engine. This formidable beast is capable of maintaining high speeds over extremely rough terrain. A 365-litre fuel capacity ensures the Wildcat can keep going all day, with drivers often staying at the wheel for periods of 14 hours in plus 40°C dry desert heat. The numerous radiators shown are crucial for preventing the engine and transmission systems from overheating, and the trellis frame creates the platform for the whole vehicle whilst providing a robust safety cage.
Safety and not speed is the priority for all racers. This is especially the case when racing at high speed in rough terrain far from the nearest support and medical services. Helmets not only provide vital head protection from blunt trauma, they help to maintain a quieter environment to allow drivers and co-drivers to concentrate on the task in hand. Built-in telecom systems mean that teams do not have to shout to be heard. The HANS device shown at the bottom of the image is a major leap forward in terms of driver safety, preventing fatal neck injuries during high-speed crashes.
After safety, reliability is the next most important factor during an endurance race. Teams also need to maintain the capability to keep a car going when complications arise mid-stage. The team’s battle cry is ‘To finish first, first you have to finish’; therefore, both driver and co-driver need to be able to deal with mechanical breakdowns if they are to have a chance at finishing. The most common issue faced is punctures and the desert is no place for a common vehicle jack. The hydraulic pump shown powers a ram fitted to the vehicle’s undercarriage, which lifts the entire vehicle clear off the ground even on soft sand, allowing for quick wheel changes.
The clothing that race teams wear needs to be comfortable and cool whilst providing additional safety benefits. The boots shown are designed to be lightweight and tight fitting, with very thin soles, providing maximum feel and awareness at the Wildcat’s controls. For our amputee drivers this is a must, as they have little feedback through the base of their prosthetics and into their stumps. The lightweight nature of the boots also helps to reduce fatigue, which is important when you have lost one or more limbs as the effort required to do everyday tasks is significantly greater.
The Race2Recovery Wildcat has controls not unlike those found in a family car. There is no room for a high-tech steering wheel as seen in some track racing cars, the complexity of which would not withstand the punishing environment of a long distance desert rally. Controls are, however, adapted to accommodate individual disabilities, and items such as steering balls and alternate pedal arrangements are the norm. One Wildcat has been modified for left-leg amputees and has a warning light to indicate to the driver that he/she is riding the clutch.