It was success all round, as two members of the Race2Recovery team tackled their first stage rally as part of the Armed Forces Rally Team (AFRT). Corporal Tom Neathway, co-driving for AFRT stalwart Major Alan Paramore, won the Land Rover Challenge class of the Trackrod Rally, the final round of the British Rally Championship. Captain Matt O'Hare had a rather less successful event however, rolling into retirement on the sixth stage of the event despite his experience and speed increasing throughout the rally.
The Race2Recovery team had decided that a stage rally campaign, in addition to their Britpart British Cross Country program, would add experience that would prove invaluable in its 2013 Dakar Rally campaign. The aim is to amass navigational expertise based on route notes and 'tulip' diagrams and then combine this with mechanical experience of working on vehicles under pressure. They were therefore delighted when the Armed Forces Rally Team offered them the opportunity to compete on several stage rallies, beginning with the famed Trackrod Rally.
The AFRT runs a fleet of Land Rover Wolfs and over the years, has gained a reputation for not only competiveness but an unrivalled capacity for helping fellow competitors, regularly sweeping the road and helping stranded crews. On the Trackrod, there was a separate Land Rover Challenge class for the marque, comprising seven entries, including six Wolfs and a single Freelander, which eventually fell by the wayside.
The combination of Paramore at the wheel and Neathway on the notes proved dominant: the pair were fastest on each of the nine stages forming the event, to claim the class win by more than six minutes by the end of the rally. O'Hare, driving for the first time in competition and partnered by James Sunderland, were also close to the pace. After a slow first stage, they set a pair of top three times in the first loop and O'Hare's experience and pace were improving with every kilometre. However, in the sixth stage, O'Hare misjudged a corner and suffered a light roll. Thanks to the strength and durability of the Land Rover Wolf, he and Sunderland were able to reach the end of the stage but decided the damage was too great to continue and hence, retired from the event.
Commenting on Neathway's first stage rally as a co-driver, Major Paramore said, 'Tom has real talent as a co-driver; he is calm, accurate and immediately picked up the requirement to keep me informed of the course ahead.' He was impressed with Neathway's adaptability, adding a description of him as, 'The real deal'.
Neathway himself said, 'It wasn't a bad start to get a class win, and the event was amazing - I can't wait to see how we do at the next two events. Working with the AFRT is fantastic - they're a great bunch of guys who are absolutely obsessed with motorsport and who do incredible things with their Land Rover Wolfs!'
Captain O'Hare was also impressed with the weekend, 'This training has been absolutely pivotal to the overall efforts of Race2Recovery; stage rallying providing the dual challenge of navigation and the requirement to drive at much higher speed than we are used to. It is all superb experience in preparation for the Dakar and we will see how well we can do when Tom and I compete together on the next stage rallies.'
The next outing for Race2Recovery will be back in the BCCC when they tackle the final round over the weekend of 15/16 October. However, they are currently finalising details for at least two more stage rallies by the end of the season and more details will be released soon.
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