In 1985, Jim’s life changed forever. While motorbike racing in the Wind Safari (now called the Australasian Safari) he crashed near Birdsville. Jim was left paraplegic but it never took away his spirit for adventure which includes the making of an award winning film, The Ride, where he retraced his steps back to the place of the accident.
This week, Jim is racing in the same safari through the North West of Australia and aims to finish the rally that nearly killed him 29 years ago. This time he and co-driver Rex are in a buggy, a Polaris XP1000. They race for seven days straight commencing in Geraldton on 20th September, onto Murchison, Gascoyne Junction, Exmouth, Carnarvon and finishing in Kalbarri on 27th September.
Jim will be the only paraplegic to race in this class in Australia for the event.
In the lead up, all buggies require safety modifications such as roll cages, positioning beacons and alarms. Living without the use of his legs, Jim has to do much more to modify the vehicle for his driving abilities.
Support from Rocky Bay’s specialist equipment service Posture Tech
As racers prepare to spend six long hours in the race seat each day, one of the most important components necessary to ensuring a smooth ride for the long, bumpy days ahead is seating.
According to Jim “when you have a spinal injury it can affect different muscles and tone and in most cases you lose the big bum muscles that you sit on and they become skin & bone”. Over the past few months, Lisa Cattalini, Occupational Therapist at Posture Tech spent several hours with Jim checking his posture, seating and pressure mapping the details in his individual car seat. Once the mapping was complete, a high tech cushion was handmade to fit the car seat to offer as much postural support and pressure relief as was possible.
Last minute changes due to an accident in testing
Jim’s buggy is in a team with one other and there are five other similar buggies in the rally. During testing last week, one of the drivers had a remarkable near miss. In a freak accident, they drove over a pole which speared through the front wheel arch, between their legs and out through the back window. The buggy came to an immediate stop and was flung 90 degrees sideways but incredibly the driver was completely uninjured, the pole missing him by a single centimetre!
As a result, all the buggies have been fitted with reinforced paneling in their wheel arches. It goes to show what a huge adventure Jim has put himself forward for and how incredibly brave he is for doing so.
Follow Jim’s journey
Jim is joined in the buggy with travelling companion, Rex Baker who will share both driver and co driver roles. We wish Jim and Rex well in the race and look forward to following their adventures on the Rocky Bay Facebook page between 20th and 27th September.
Photos from first pressure mapping:
Photos from second pressure mapping:
Photos of the buggy raceday ready: