Opinion: Meeting the injured service personnel conquering Morocco's deserts

Future Terrain

The Future Terrain Dacia Dusters

The Future Terrain team – and their Dacia Dusters – are proving their capabilities on the tough six-day Carta Rallye

The scale of the challenge facing the inexperienced crews of the Future Terrain team on the Carta Rallye was made apparent shortly after I watched their trio of essentially road-spec Dacia Dusters tackle a dried riverbed.

Once they had carefully picked their way through, a loud diesel roar announced the arrival of a massive DAF FAV75 rally raid truck. With barely a lift of the throttle, it shot over the bumps and rocks of the riverbed as if they weren’t there, conquering Morocco’s exacting desert terrain by sheer brute force.

The scale of the achievement of the Future Terrain team was highlighted later: while one of the Dusters was sidelined by a radiator issue, the other two made it back to camp under their own power. Unlike the DAF truck, its crew crashing into a wad, and remaining stuck in the desert until a recovery team could pull them out long after dark.

Morocco’s wads, bumps, sand dunes and rocks – lots of rocks – are among the many tough challenges the Carta Rallye crews have to conquer – whether in the full Dakar-style Cross Country, like the DAF truck, or the GPS Cup, like the Future Terrain team.

The GPS Cup is an orienteering-style event where crews have to plot and negotiate their way around a string of checkpoints. While the speeds aren’t as quick as in the Cross Country, it’s still a tough test on a six-day event, and rewards route plotting and quick thinking as much as outright speed. 

It’s a tough discipline, especially given that many of the Future Terrain team had never competed in a rally raid before, and that the team was comprised largely of current and former service personnel, who have been affected or injured during service.

The Future Terrain charity was established in 2016, and has run cars in the British Cross Country Championship, but the support of Dacia UK – including the donation of four Dusters – has enabled the team to ramp up to the next level.

Several team members admitted that they were sceptical when they heard they would be rallying Dusters, unsure whether Dacia’s off-roader would be up to the task. Having sampled them, all were genuinely effusive in their praise: they seemed as determined to prove the capabilities of the underdog Duster as they were to showcase their own.

Aside from roll-cages and off-road tyres, the three Dusters being used on the Carta Rallye are essentially in road spec, and the team has been learning about them along the way. Two cars suffered problems on the first day after heavy mud – caused by two days of unexpectedly heavy rain – snapped the bolts that hold the radiator in place, splitting the units. 

Such problems could break the spirits of some crews – but given some of the physical and mental challenges the team members have overcome, a damaged rally car radiator is merely a trivial problem to be surmounted. 

Plus, success for the Future Terrain team isn’t defined by on-stage results: the focus is firmly on support and training, and tackling a six-day rally raid in Morocco is merely a tool to do that.

Team members have earned vocational qualifications in off-road driving and first aid. The aim is to use rallies to show team members how skills they have learned in the armed forces can be applied to other pursuits.

Heading into the Moroccan wilderness to watch the team’s Dusters in action was exciting, but seeing the camaraderie the team members showed in the service area – and their refusal to let their injuries define them – was genuinely inspirational. When you hear the stories of the team members, you realise that Morocco’s wads, bumps, sand dunes and rocks barely qualify as challenges worthy of note. 

The Carta Rallye continues until Saturday 6 April. Read more about the Future Terrain team in Autocar soon. 

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Source: Autocar Online

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