22 March 2018: Nine military veterans aim to retrace the original Dakar Rally route through Morocco driving used cars worth no more than £350 each.
The challenge has been set by Driven to Extremes, an organisation that supports former service personnel suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), using vehicle expeditions to aid their recovery.
Founder Mac Mackenney intends to make the ‘Dakar’ Challenge an annual event, giving the veterans who have taken part the chance to return the following year as members of the support team, and ultimately to lead the fundraising expedition themselves.
For the first challenge, starting this week, the veterans will drive three budget Citroen Berlingos through France and Spain before picking up the original Paris-Dakar Rally route in Morocco.
They will then drive 1,000 miles off-road, aiming to reach the Atlantic coast in just five days.
As well as the back-up of support teams in 4x4s – including a mechanic and doctor – the veterans will also have the reassurance of satellite communications to keep them connected no matter how remote their location.
Inmarsat is providing Driven to Extremes with a Cobham Explorer 710 BGAN HDR terminal for superior quality video, an iSavi IsatHub terminal to use with their own smart devices, and a rugged IsatPhone 2 satellite phone.
Mac, who will lead the inaugural expedition, explained: “The provision of this state-of-the-art communications equipment by Inmarsat is invaluable to our ‘Dakar’ Challenge, which is a momentous undertaking for the veterans who are suffering from PTSD.
“It will not only provide trusted connectivity in the event of an emergency, but will also allow them to fully publicise their efforts in the UK and international media.
“Driven to Extremes’ media partners will be closely following the expedition to highlight the prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder among our military veterans, and the impact it is having on their lives.
“Through this sponsorship, Inmarsat will make possible instant delivery of video footage, photographs and interviews, boosting awareness of the condition at the same time as showing what certain sufferers are doing to help themselves.”
Mac, who is ex-military himself, firmly believes that the fast pace of vehicle expeditions is beneficial for psychological recovery.
“They will be immersed in new experience after new experience,” he says. “Operating in remote and challenging environments, working as valued members of a close-knit team, and the opportunities for leadership help provide a new focus, promote self-esteem and build confidence.
“These are men and women used to fighting against the odds on a daily basis and this expedition will allow them to focus on their skills and achievements.
“Thanks to the generosity of Inmarsat, their efforts will not go unnoticed, and will hopefully inspire many others to follow in their tracks.”