A WAR veteran from Yate is returning to South America for one of the world’s toughest road races, despite being badly injured in a head-on crash in last year’s event.
Lee Townsend is once again taking part in the Dakar rally, working as support crew for the Race2Recovery team which is made up of injured soldiers.
The group made history as the first disabled rally team to enter, and complete, the Dakar rally in 2013 despite a head-one crash which injured Lee and two British teammates and killed two bystanders in Peru.
The incident happened on day five of the 15-day rally. All three British competitors were treated in a Peruvian hospital before returning home.
Lee, 43, who served in first Gulf War, Bosnia and the Falklands conflicts with the Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers, said the incident had taught the team many lessons.
“I’m extremely excited to be heading back out to South America as part of Race2Recovery,” he said. “The team’s achievement last year was something special and something we all savoured.
"However, a massive amount of work has gone into establishing the team after that original challenge and the fact that we now have a sustainable rally raid team is a huge achievement by all concerned.
“We can transfer all our learnings from last year into this year’s Dakar and I am sure we’ll learn even more on our second time in the competition.”
The Dakar 2014 course, which stretches over 9,000km of the world’s toughest terrain, began in Rosario, Argentina on Sunday (January 5) with the course winding north through Argentina, into Bolivia and finishing in Valparaiso, Chile on January 18.
Race2Recovery has entered two race vehicles into this year’s event with 16 members in the team including Lee, who is specialising in providing mechanical support to the team’s race vehicles and support trucks.
He added: “It’s great for the team to know that, when the Dakar is over, we have more to look forward to. Our sponsors Land Rover have confirmed that they will support our entry into the brand new Defender Challenge series, launching in spring this year.
“That’s a massive step for us as a team as it means we’ll be part of a UK-based rally series that will allow us to further develop our skills and experience and also gives us a platform to train new recruits to the team.”
Race2Recovery operates to the motto ‘beyond injury, achieving the extraordinary’. So far, the team has raised over £250,000 for Tedworth House Personnel Recovery Centre and Help for Heroes and, this year, is also raising awareness of military charity Blesma.
Visit www.race2recovery.com for more information or to sponsor the team.