This weekend will see arguably the biggest leap into the unknown for Race2Recovery, the charity rally team comprised predominantly of injured British servicemen. The team will contest its first international rally raid, the Tuareg Rally, as it moves into the next phase of preparation for its assault on the 2013 Dakar Rally.
Having spent 2011 competing in the British Cross Country Championship in the Race2Recovery Land Rover Freelander and selected events in the Qt Wildcats, the Tuareg will be the first major international event for the team. As such, the team members are expecting the learning curve to steepen to the point of becoming near vertical but are relishing the challenge of moving their programme up several gears.
The team has been heavily involved in the preparation of the two Qt Wildcats that will contest the event at the Qt Services premises in Plymouth. Both cars have had new Quaife gearboxes fitted, Alcon brakes tested and Donerre dampers fitted which has allowed the team to familiarise themselves with the systems and components ready for the service intervals on the event.
Several key members also took part in specialised driver training prior to the event, including low grip simulations, sand skills and recovery and repair practices.
The Tuareg Rally itself is a perfect initiation into International Rally Raids, since the bulk of the competition is based predominantly around a single central service area or 'camp', based at Mersouga in Morocco. There is a single overnight halt on the way to Mersouga from the port of Nidor at the beginning and the end of the event but the Tuareg Rally will give Race2Recovery the first taste of what they will face on the Dakar; high altitude driving over the Atlas Mountains, sand dune driving and navigation in the Sahara and the stamina and endurance necessary for eight days at the wheel and under the cars for the technicians.
This event will provide exactly the right balance of training and experience for the team. It will allow them to develop their skills in a progressively more complex environment whilst ensuring that vital lessons can be learnt both in the camp and racing. The added bonus of a slightly more stable bivouac and excellent facilities will allow the team a chance to look after their injuries and learn from their mistakes without an absolute fear of sleep deprivation.
The event begins in Almeria in Spain on Sunday 18 March and the crews travel to Morocco overnight by Ferry.
Day 1, 19 March - Nidor/Missor
390 Km including tricky navigational sections
Day 2, 20 March - Missor/Mersouga
340Km including sand dunes at Erfoud
Day 3, 21 March - Circuit Mersouga
230Km around the camp at Mersouga
Day 4, 22 March - Kingstage
280Km, the first foray into the sand dunes
Day 5, 23 March - Dune Race
80Km purely run in sand dunes of the Sahara
Day 6, 24 March - Mersouga/Missor
400Km as the crews head back north and towards the finish
Day 7, 25 March - Missor/Nador
400Km back through the Guercif section from Day 1. Overnight ferry back to Spain
Day 8, 26 March - Almeria/Mojacar
110Km including dried gorge, to the finish
Rally 1'Orange Plant' Qt Wildcat Driver - Dave MarshCo-driver - Tom Neathway
Been with the team right from the start and the team has been given the opportunity to honour Gordon Chapman's memory by taking his car to the Dakar - this will be the first time the Qt Wildcat 500DKR has competed in the desert and a unique opportunity for the team to learn how their injuries will affect them whilst racing.
Rally 2'Rat Cat' Qt WildcatDriver - Tony HarrisCo-driver - Ben Gott
Owned by Dakar Stalwart Ben Gott, the 'Rat Cat' has been converted to the same specification as the 'Orange Plant' car and will feature exactly the same livery and sponsor support. Two drivers in one car might seem like a recipe for disaster but this gives both the chance to gain valuable experience of both driving and navigating by swapping round.
Supervision 1Land Rover DefenderTeam Principal - Pierre de FrenneTeam Manager - Andrew TaylorPress Officer - Jim Blackstock
Support 1Land Rover DefenderMechanical Manager - Dave ReeveTechnician - Barney GillespieTechnician - Andrew Jenner
Support 2Land Rover DefenderAssistant Team Manager - Sean WhatleyTechnician - Fraser ParishTechnician - Adrian Eason-Bassett
Quaife Engineering is a British-based global leader in the design, development and production of high performance transmission and driveline technologies.
The company is supporting the Race2Recovery team by providing sequential six-speed gearboxes for its Qt Wildcats and torque-biasing limited slip differentials to suit.
The adoption of sequential gearboxes means reduced risk of missed gear changes as well as reduced strain on the drivers, since once the vehicle is moving, the clutch is not required to change up or down a gear. This is particularly important for Tony Harris, who's left leg was amputated following an IED explosion.
Captain Tony Harris, Driver
"This is a very significant moment for the Race2Recovery team - our first international rally raid and our first taste of what the Dakar will have in store for us.
"The Tuareg is the perfect first rally for us - it's a very relaxed and well organised and the fact that it's based mainly around one camp means that we won't have to keep packing up and then setting up our camp every night. However, that doesn't mean it won't be a challenge. There's more than 2000 competitive kilometres on the event and while we're not targeting a particular result, finishing our first rally will be a major achievement.
"The support we've received from so many areas has been absolutely invaluable to the team, in terms of getting the cars ready, getting all the support equipment in place and in some cases, even getting to the start of the event. There are so many people to thanks and we'll be doing just that as we go along."
The team will be producing daily updates from the Tuareg Rally, as it progresses on its first international event. Rights-free photos and video footage will be available from the event and details will be issued along with the daily updates.