Porsche 911 Dakar crossing Australia’s Simpson Desert to raise money for charity

A team of adventurers have picked an unlikely off-roader to cross the Simpson Desert, all the while raising money to fight Motor Neurone Disease.

Image: Tom takes on the outback again, via Facebook

An intrepid father-son duo is raising money for charity by crossing the Simpson Desert behind the wheel of an unmodified 2023 Porsche 911 Dakar.

The feat is being undertaken by 83-year-old car enthusiast Tom Barr Smith along with his son and a group of mates acting as a support crew.

It’s not the crew’s first time tackling the Simpson Desert, but it is the first time doing it behind the wheel of a Porsche 911 Dakar – an off-road-focused variant of the iconic 911 sports car.

The mammoth journey saw the team leave home in Victoria on Sunday July 30, 2023 bound for the remote town of Burra, South Australia. From there, the team plans to trek further west towards Lake Eyre and then eventually north, up to the Simpson Desert.

Image: Tom takes on the outback, via Facebook

There’s no time-based element to their trek given the unknowns around the unmodified Porsche, though it should fare better than the car used in their previous attempt.

Mr Barr Smith previously completed a similar 5500km adventure in a 2003 Porsche Carrera 4S three years ago. The fundraising effort raised $114,000 against a $100,000 goal, but it left Mr Barr Smith’s Porsche in a sorry state, which was displayed for the public at Porsche Centre Brighton in south-east Victoria.

By comparison, the 2023 Porsche 911 Dakar is a purpose-built off-road sports car named after the gruelling Paris-Dakar rally. It features a suite of off-road enhancements including sitting 50mm higher than a regular Porsche 911 Carrera, Pirelli Scorpion all-terrain tyres, metal bash plates, and black wheel arches.

It’s powered by a 3.0-litre twin-turbo flat-six-cylinder engine which develops 353kW and 570Nm, and Porsche claims a 0-100km/h sprint time of 3.4 seconds.

Image: Tom takes on the outback, via Facebook

The fundraiser will help FightMND, a charity established in 2014 which aims to raise awareness and money for curing Motor Neurone Disease (MND). Motor Neurone Disease is a catch-all term to categorise a group of neurodegenerative diseases that target the nerve cells controlling the muscles used to move, speak, swallow, and breathe.

People suffering from MND have difficulty with their motor control and eventually lose their ability to breathe. Sadly, the average timeframe from initial onset to death is just 2.5 years.

Mr Barr Smith’s own wife Jenny was diagnosed with the disease at the same time as FightMND co-founder and Australian football legend Neale Daniher.  

The cause has deep roots within the Australian Football League, but fundraising efforts like Mr Barr Smith’s have raised hundreds-of-thousands of dollars and immeasurable awareness for the debilitating disease.

The team is aiming for another $100,000 fundraising goal with this attempt and are just shy of the barrier as of this article’s publish.

Tom started out in the automotive industry by exploiting his photographic skills but quickly learned that journalists got the better end of the deal. He began with CarAdvice in 2014, left in 2017 to join Bauer Media titles including Wheels and WhichCar and subsequently returned to CarAdvice in early 2021 during its transition to Drive.

As part of the Drive content team, Tom covers automotive news, car reviews, advice, and holds a special interest in long-form feature stories.

He understands that every car buyer is unique and has varying requirements when it comes to buying a new car, but equally, there’s also a loyal subset of Drive audience that loves entertaining enthusiast content.

Tom holds a deep respect for all things automotive no matter the model, priding himself on noticing the subtle things that make each car tick. Not a day goes by that he doesn’t learn something new in an everchanging industry, which is then imparted to the Drive reader base.

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