The RSL RAEMUS Rover Off-Road Racing Team entered three cars in the 2019 Finke Desert Race. Jim Dwyer and Morgan Appleby.
The RSL RAEMUS Rover Off-Road Racing Team entered three cars in the 2019 Finke Desert Race. Jim Dwyer and Morgan Appleby.

Veteran first amputee to conquer Australia's toughest race

IT'S hard enough for most people to tackle the Finke Desert Race. Hailed as the toughest race in the county, it's an off-road, multi-terrain, two-day, 460km course from Alice Springs to the small Northern Territory community.

For a group of veterans, most of whom have been medically discharged veterans and struggling with PTSD and a host of other issues, it features even more hurdles to overcome than for their competitors. 

The RSL RAEMUS Rover Off-Road Racing Team was started in the 1970s but found new life when it was resurrected in 2012.

It is based locally, working out of a bit of land at the back of the Ipswich Motorsport Precinct at Willowbank and a couple of workshops in Karalee and Brightview.

RAEMUS is a charity that supports a rehabilitative process for current and former Australian Defence Force personnel via activities associated with off-road racing.

Last year 286 veterans went through the program.

The team entered three cars in the 2019 Finke event, with a driver and navigator in each and a large team with them to maintain the vehicles.


Only one of their cars, piloted by Jim Dwyer and Morgan Appleby, finished and did so in 71st place.

Jim, who lost his leg 20 months ago, was the first amputee driver to ever complete the race and Morgan had his fifth knee operation just five weeks prior.

Upon finishing, Jim said it was the happiest he had been for years.

RAEMUS managing director Ian Baker said all the veterans involved had been medically discharged and it was difficult getting them well enough to take on the challenge, even before work on the cars started.

"We were asking a hell of a lot," he said.

"It was a massive challenge for all those people both emotionally and physically to go and do it. The fact we've achieved it we're still coming to terms with. It's a superb outcome.

"Most of these people stay at home and don't integrate with society that well because they don't feel comfortable in it.

"Nearly every single person in this team has PTSD. You put that layer on layer of challenge in front of them and we're asking them to do something that you would expect a Red Bull race team to do.

"It's a big, big ask for some very, very broken people and they did it. It wasn't without challenge and not without issue, but they did it."

Mr Baker said he had seen veterans grow in self confidence and self belief after going through such a difficult challenge.

"Coming from military, team work is very important to them," he said.

"They are part of a team again and being recognised as a valuable contributor to the team. They have a role, they have a responsiblity and they go for it.

"First phase is getting veterans well enough they can do this. Second is get those veterans into cars and good enough in the cars to do the race. They also work on the cars themselves.

"And then third is get here and do the Finke race, which is 7000km minimum travel. You then need to house them, feed them, move them, deal with their issues, their medication, deal when they're not having a good time, had emotional boilovers, we've had psyche events, all sort of things."

For more information on the team visit their Facebook page.