Sport on TV: Unjust deserts as the wheels of fortune stop turning
Sunday 28 April 2013
You've heard of rallying the troops but this was something else. Dakar Rally: Frontline to Finish Line (ITV4, Wednesday) told the story of a team of servicemen with amputated limbs trying to complete the most difficult motor race on the planet. The Race2Recovery team were co-drivers and had dreamt up the challenge two years ago while undergoing rehabilitation. Surely someone must have piped up in the early stages and said: "Not the bloody desert again?" And maybe suggested that they cut their teeth in, say, Wales instead.
The irony is that the off-road "rally raid" was moved to the dunes of South America after the original route through the Sahara desert to Senegal became too dangerous because of terrorist activity.
Captain Tony Harris of the Royal Fusiliers didn't even reach the start line before he came grinding to a halt. He had lost his front-wheel drive and was told that he couldn't stop once he was up and running. Then he broke down again; this time the rear-wheel drive went. He hadn't got much choice but to stop.
If it wasn't bad enough that the Army's faulty field equipment had come back to haunt them here too, the support team were described as "novice mechanics". Another of their Wildcats had problems with its cooling system and Sean Whatley visited a DIY store and installed a section of chimney flue liner to keep air flowing over the fuel pumps. "You don't get the support in the middle of the field fixing a Challenger tank," he boasted. The flue didn't work and they broke down again.
While the cars were overheating, the soldiers admirably kept their cool. But Captain Harris broke down when he was eliminated from the race after failing to finish the second stage. It had been his idea in the first place. It's tempting to think that these brave men might be a few spanners short of a full set but you probably have to be to take part in the Dakar Rally.
Perhaps, as the modern parlance goes, someone should have drawn a line in the sand. Tragedy was lurking around the corner and it didn't even come during the race. Returning to camp, a support car was involved in a road accident and two Peruvian locals were killed. More collateral damage needlessly inflicted. The second part is shown this week, but be warned: it makes for pretty uncomfortable viewing.
* Let's chalk it up for Dechawat Poomjaeng, who at long last has shown what it would be like if your average bloke rocked up to the World Snooker Championships to shoot a few frames.
Against Michael White (World Snooker, BBC1, Thursday) the Thai player managed to miss the ball he was aiming for three times in a row while trying to use the bridge, even though he wasn't even snookered, and had to concede a frame for the first time in Crucible history.
"He'll be playing a different shot, that's one thing for certain," said an unimpressed Willie Thorne before his third attempt, but our man just did his own thing. Then he left his cue on the table as he stormed off, presumably to get a pint and a pack of pork scratchings.
There have been many maverick players down the years but none with whom we can really identify. They're usually far too good. Luckily there's not much chance of that happening with Poomjaeng.
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