Duke of Cambridge pays tribute to Dakar Rally team
5:20pm Monday 21st January 2013 in News
The Duke of Cambridge has paid tribute to a group of soldiers who have become the first disabled team to complete the gruelling Dakar Rally.
The 28-strong team, led by Earlsfield army Major Matt O'Hare, started the 9,000km race in Lima, Peru, on January 5.
Just 15 days later Major O'Hare's Wildcat vehicle, having hurtled through Peru and Argentina and then along the formidable Andes mountain range, crossed the finish line in the Chilean capital of Santiago - driving more than 600 miles per day.
Along the way the team, Race2Recovery, encountered extreme weather conditions, dangerous roads and even narrowly avoided death during a multi-car pile-up which claimed the lives of two people from another team.
In fact three of the team, Justin Birchall, Lee Townsend and John Winskill, were taken to hospital after the crash.
Major O’Hare, 32, who served in the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers for 11 years, said: "I’m ecstatic and am so proud and pleased for the whole Race2Recovery team.
"Our mechanics and support team have kept us in the race and their work and dedication was second to none.
"Our other drivers and co-drivers who were forced to retire earlier in the race became an integral part of the support team as we continued the challenge and so this really is a team success.
"To complete the Dakar Rally is an incredible achievement in itself, but to become the first ever disability team to cross that finish line lifts the achievement to a whole other level."
They formed a rally team to raise funds for Forces charities such as the Tedworth House Personnel Recovery Centre.
Prince William, who has been following the race with his wife Catherine, lavished praise on the team.
The Duke said: "We know it was not easy, but you have 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.
"We hope you get some rest now, and, please, no driving like that on our roads when you're back."
Until 2008 competitors raced between Paris and Dakar, in Senegal, but political strife in Mauritania meant the route had to be shifted to run between Lima and Santiago, in Chile.
The team consisted of four Wildcat race vehicles, a fleet of support vehicles including a 4x4 truck plus 8x8 support trucks and a number of Land Rover Discovery vehicles.
Donations can be made at www.race2recovery.com or to donate £5 via mobile text RACE20 £5 to 70070