A group of disabled war veterans in budget 4x4s, led by a Scot, have beaten crews driving specially customized cars in one of the world’s toughest desert rallies.
The Future Terrain team, with Scott Garthley, from Tranent at the helm, drove three Dacia Dusters a combined 3,000 miles through the Sahara in a seven-day adventure.
They took on giant sand dunes, rocky roads, flooded tracks and other harsh terrain in the Carta Rallye – having just driven more than 2,000 miles from England to the starting line in Morocco.
While a number of specially-built rally cars costing hundreds of thousands were getting stuck overnight in the desert, the hardy Dacias made it back to the camp each evening after ten to 12 hours of driving plus night stages.
Navigation during the orienteering-type competition was made extra difficult by the unpredictable weather. Sunshine was interrupted by heavy downpours and visibility was limited by regular sandstorms.
The Future Terrain team is made up of wounded, injured and sick former and serving members of the armed forces, who use motorsport and off-road driving to gain qualifications to redefine themselves after life-changing injury.
One of the drivers was former soldier George Frost, a 37-year-old dad-of-one from Dorset who suffers from complex PTSD. Mr Frost was returning to a desert environment for the first time since serving in the military. He said: “I was nervous beforehand because it was my first trip back to the desert.
“It was an amazing adventure and it has helped my mental health. I have learnt a lot from the experience. I’ve learnt to push myself further.”
In 2003, while serving in Iraq, Mr Garthley received several complex injuries following an explosion and in recent years had to have a limb amputated.
Former bank HR boss and Territorial Army corporal Mr Garthley, 51, said: “Not only did we do it but we were competing against vehicles which had tens of thousands of pounds of modifications, while we had a car off the factory line.
“On one day we finished second, third and fourth in our class. We were gobsmacked and it did a lot for everyone’s spirit.
“We worked as a team, drove as a team and when there was a problem we got out of it as a team. We were outperforming vehicles which on paper we shouldn’t have. The Dacias did us proud.”
Incredibly, the only mechanical issue experienced during the rally was on the first day when one of the Dusters damaged a radiator, forcing the team to add extra protection to certain areas of the vehicles.
Apart from roll cages for safety, all-terrain tyres and some underbody protection, the cars remained standard and were near identical to the Duster 4x4s which cost £13,700 in the UK.