Morale remains high in the Race2Recovery camp despite the serious knockbacks of the last week, Captain Tony Harris reports from the Dakar Rally in Argentina.
A rest day on Sunday gave everyone the chance to use IsatPhone Pro and BGAN to ring home and read messages of support on the team's Facebook page, giving them a tremendous boost.
“Our aim was to get a car over the finish line and we can still do that,” said Tony, Race2Recovery Co-Director.
Bring out the best
“It's been an atrocious run of bad luck but I find that adversity tends to bring out the best in people.”
Tony was speaking as the team's remaining drivers, Matt O'Hare and Barney Gillespie, were preparing to set out again on the stage 10 from Cordoba to La Rioja in their Wildcat rally vehicle, called Joy.
“Yesterday was a great day because the mechanics did an excellent job fixing up the overheating problems on Joy, and Matt and Barney are driving incredibly well,” he said. “We expect another good one today.”
The 9,000km (5,600-mile) extreme motorsport challenge has been a gruelling experience for the Race2Recovery team of predominantly wounded service personnel, as well as veterans and expert civilians.
Tony described the “huge sadness” felt by the whole team following the deaths of two local people in an accident in Peru last week, which left three team members who were travelling in a support vehicle in hospital.
“Our guys are all doing well, and hopefully a couple of them will be able to join us in Santiago and see Joy crossing the finish line.”
Tony was one of the drivers of the first of three Race2Recovery cars to be forced out of the running, when rally organisers ruled it had not reached sufficient checkpoints during the second stage.
“It was a frustrating way to go out,” he admitted. “On a personal level it was devastating, but I was very clear it was about the team.
“You have to dust yourself off and remember why you are there – to inspire people and show how it can be done.”
Still being in with a chance of achieving their target is thanks not only to the skill and determination of the team but also Inmarsat services, said Tony.
“IsatPhone Pro has been absolutely key to keeping running.
“If we hadn't had the satellite phones all four cars would have been out of the race by now. I just can't overstate how reliable they are.”
Inmarsat has provided eight IsatPhone Pro handsets so the team members on the ground can stay in touch with each other and contact the mechanical and logistics crews back at base in the UK.
They also have two BGAN Explorer terminals, made by Thrane & Thrane, for transmitting blogs, photos and footage.
“The Explorer 700 terminal is being used by the journalistic crew following us to send film back,” explained Tony.
“It's perfect for them as it doesn't take up too much room in the car.
“The Explorer 727 is being used by the team – it allows them to check emails and look up technical specs for the cars and logistics fleet.
“They've got a huge amount of expertise but they can't know everything and BGAN's been brilliant for looking up information.”
The services have proved vital for more than just race-critical communications.
“The satellite phones have allowed us to stay in touch with our colleagues in hospital,” said Tony.
“And on the rest day everyone was really chuffed to be able to ring home and spend some time on the internet, seeing all the messages of support.
“Having the BGAN link allows them to see how important this is to so many people – it's incredible.”
To follow the Race2Recovery team's daily progress or to make a donation towards their fundraising efforts for Tedworth House Personnel Recovery Centre visit its website.
If you live in the UK, you can donate £5 via your mobile phone – just text RACE20 £5 to 70070.