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Ribble Valley soldier makes history in 'world's toughest race'
A TEAM of injured soldiers and civilian volunteers made history for the second year running by once again finishing the ‘world’s toughest race’.
There were huge celebrations as the Race2Recovery team crossed the finishing line of the Dakar Rally after more than 9,000km of racing.
And this year’s success marked a major milestone for Ribble Valley resident and director of Birchall Food Service in Hapton, Justin Birchall, who was assistant team manager.
Mr Birchall was travelling in a support car with the 2013 rally team, but was seriously injured in a fatal crash, forcing him to retire from the race.
The father-of-three daughters was one of three British men airlifted to hospital after last year’s horrific three-car smash as they followed a stage of the motorsport rally in Peru. He was left with four broken ribs, neck and back injuries.
Despite last year’s drama, the group became the first disabled team to finish the Dakar in 2013 and, by successfully crossing the line this time, they have written themselves into the record books once again.
At 2.30pm local time on Saturday, the Race2Recovery truck crossed the official finish line to jubilant scenes from the team’s support crew.
The truck and team then made its way to the final podium in Valparaiso, Chile, arriving at 10.45pm to celebrate with the crowds who packed into the city centre.
To complete the gruelling race, the team battled across some of the world's toughest terrain, including the Atacama Desert and Andes mountain range, before arriving at the final check point.
A total of 204 vehicles completed the 2014 Dakar, after just over half were beaten by the challenging race and forced to withdraw.
On Saturday night, the team took to Twitter to celebrate their success, and said: “We’ve done it! Another historic Dakar finish for combat injured veterans.”
Tony Harris, the team's founder, said: “The team has once again lived up to its motto ‘Beyond Injury, Achieving the Extraordinary’.
“We had a bit of a bumpy ride early on but we all pulled together and showed what will-power and teamwork can achieve.
“The race truck crew have been a credit to us and to the Dakar as a whole.”
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