Soldier blown-up in suicide atttack set for world’s toughest motor challenge
A soldier blown up in a suicide attack will take on the world’s toughest motor challenge for charity, despite suffering constant pain from his injuries.
Andrew Taylor from Taverham was hurt in Helmand, Afghanistan, in 2008 when a suicide bomber blew up a car next to the army Land Rover the medic was travelling in.
But four years into his gruelling recovery, the father-of-two will head to South America next year to race in the Dakar Rally in a team backed by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, left, and Prince Harry. The warrant officer badly injured his back in the explosion, but insisted on finishing the last three months of his Afghan tour by taking painkillers.
“We were caught in the flash of the bomb,” he said. “I don’t remember the sound of the explosion because it burst my ear drums. The vehicle was engulfed in flames. I immediately got myself out.”
But Mr Taylor then headed back into the Land Rover to help a soldier trapped in the flames.
“If felt roughed up, but I didn’t feel I had anything worse than damage to my ears,” he said.
When he returned to England in September 2008, after completing the tour, a scan showed the true extent of the damage to his back.
“I was immobile for a long time,” he said. “You go from being on tour with the lads and all of a sudden you are injured and life goes on without you.
“You have some dark days just lying there immobile.”
But while being treated at Headley Court rehabilitation centre, in Surrey, the 40-year-old met the injured veterans who he would go on to form a rally team with. The team called Race2Recovery has already raised £100,000 to help injured servicemen and women.
Mr Taylor said: “When you are injured you are taken away from the camaraderie.
“It does you the world of good to be back with like-minded guys.
“It has given me a sense of purpose and drive.
“At times you have setbacks in your injures but the lads all help each other out.”
Unable to drive over rough terrain, Mr Taylor, who served in the Royal Army Medical Corps, organises the team’s logistics.
He will travel in the support vehicle with the help of two other team members from Norwich - Dave Reeve, 58, a rally veteran of two decades and his wife Debbie Harrison, 54, an occupational therapist and lecturer at the University of East Anglia.
Mr Reeve said: “It was always a dream of mine to be involved in the Dakar Rally but one I never thought would be made a reality.
“A friend of ours passed away and his wife donated us his Wildcat race car.
“That gives it an extra special meaning for me as I’ll be one of the mechanics working on that car and helping to get it through the race.”
Mrs Harrison looks after the team’s social media.
She said: “With my profession being in occupational therapy, I believe in helping people lead the kind of lives they want to lead.
“The Race2Recovery team is a bunch of people passionate about motorsport but also people who, whilst facing challenges and adversity, are overriding any disabilities and are instead demonstrating absolute ability.”
Race2Recovery, sponsored by Land Rover, has already raised £100,000 for the Personnel Recovery Centre at Tedworth House.
•To donate visit www.race2recovery.com.
Are you doing something amazing for charity? Call reporter Tom Bristow on 01603 772313 or email firstname.lastname@example.org