Dakar Rally dream to become reality for Burnley man
THE ‘driving force’ behind a Burnley foodservice company is getting behind the wheel to take part in the world’s most formidable off-road rally.
Justin Birchall is heading to South America in January 2013 after being invited to join the prestigious Race2Recovery team, which will take part in the world-famous Dakar Rally.
The father of three girls, who is the operations director of Birchall Foodservice, based on the Network 65 Business Park in Hapton, is now undergoing intensive training to ensure he is fit for the gruelling 15-day challenge, which will see him tackle 9,000 racing kilometres of desert sand dunes in Peru, Argentina and Chile.
The race attracts a huge following worldwide with 1billion viewers.
“Taking part in the Dakar Rally is a lifetime’s dream for me,” said Justin, 40, who has over seven years’ off-road experience and recently completed the Tuareg Rally from Almeria, Spain, to Mersouga in Morocco and back.
“It is the world’s biggest off-road endurance rally and is the pinnacle of anyone’s driving career. Having said that, it’s extremely daunting and I do wonder what I have let myself in for.”
The Race2Recovery team is predominantly made up of wounded servicemen and Justin’s navigator will be triple amputee Tom Neathway, a member of the Parachute Regiment since 2001 and a veteran of multiple tours of Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan.
On his last tour of Afghanistan in 2008, Tom triggered a booby trap while covering his platoon moving forward.
The blast took off both of his feet and the severity of his wounds and a resulting infection led to the amputation of both of Tom’s legs and his left arm. Tom is the first triple amputee ever to enter the race.
Justin continued: “Tom is a great character. He has been through so much yet he still has a positive outlook on life. He is truly inspirational and I feel honoured to have been invited to be his driver.”
By taking part in the Dakar Rally, Justin, Tom and the rest of the Race2Recovery team will be raising vital funds for Tedworth House, a Help for Heroes project based in Wiltshire.
Staff at Birchall Foodservice have pledged to raise £25,000 for the charity with a variety of events between now and March.
To make a donation visit http://justgiving.com/Justin-Birchall