On January 5, Marine Staff Sergeant Mark Zambon and Corporal Timothy Jay Read of the United States Marine Corps will begin a mission very different from the ones they carried out in Afghanistan and Iraq
This mission starts in Lima, Peru, where the two veterans will attempt to tackle the Dakar Rally, an off-road race that crosses more than 5,000 miles of the harshest terrain in South America.
The Dakar is the world’s toughest rally, and for these two Marines it will be even tougher. Both Zambon and Read lost a leg in combat and are part of Race2Recovery, the first disabled team ever to enter the Dakar.
Each of the team’s quartet of Wildcat rally cars is crewed by at least one disabled serviceman. Zambon will co-drive for British Dakar veteran Ben Gott, while Read will serve as a mechanic on another team of 28.
The Race2Recovery team was founded 18 months ago by Brits Tony Harris and Tom Neathway. In April 2009, Harris was the victim of a roadside bomb in Afghanistan, which led to the amputation of his left foot. During a stay at a military rehabilitation center in the U.K., Harris met Neathway and together they hatched a plan to tackle the Dakar Rally.
“It was all about giving ourselves a goal and getting back that adrenaline rush we’d been missing,” says Neathway, “and showing other injured service personnel that anything is possible.” A member of a parachute regiment, Neathway lost two legs and an arm when he stepped on a booby trap in Afghanistan in 2008. “My feet had just turned into what they call ‘pink mist,’” he explains. “They just disappeared.”