The Rally took off from Rye Street Group, Bishops Stortford early on Thursday morning, with competitors getting in the mood by wearing fancy dress themed to their vehicles or in 70’s disco gear. No effort was spared in making their cars look fantastic and everyone contributed to making the starting grid a perfect start to the rally.
All of the competitors happily boarded the Eurotunnel for the first leg of the adventure. Sadly, for The Gruesome Twosome’s ancient Renault 12, this was the first and last leg of the rally’s under its own power! Having spent 40 years in the UK, it was if it was coming home to France to die.
Undeterred however, owner Paul Morgan called The REAL Rally support team and The Rangers, driven by Roger Dunn, made their way back to the port to assess the vehicle. Without the necessary spare parts, the tired old Renault was towed for the 180 odd mile journey to the first night stopover at Reims. The four-wheel drive vehicle, The Sledgehammer (operated by Scruffy Motor Sport) took over and it sat on The Sledgehammers trailer for the rest of the rally.
With the exception of a bit of spluttering, coughing and a bit of smoke polluting, everyone else made it for the first night’s festivities in the beautiful city of Reims. Contestants stayed in a central city hotel which proved the perfect place to explore the local bars and restaurants.
Friday morning saw a few fuzzy heads but each team had agreed a designated driver policy, so whilst hangovers were nursed in the passenger seats, the cars soldiered on through the scenic regions of northern France and southern Belgium, winding alongside the beautiful River Meuse and finally heading into Germany for their second night stop in Düsseldorf.
During the day, a couple of the drivers had the opportunity to discuss their vehicles' ability to go to fast with French Gendarmerie and this leg also claimed a couple of further casualties.
Pinky and Perky’s Mercedes battery finally drained just outside Maastricht but using the combination of The Sledgehammer and the RAC, and the provision of two new batteries, the alternator-less banger made its way to the second nights’ destination.
Team Marvel's old Mondeo also ground to a halt during the Belgian leg. Again, The Morelli Ranger came to the rescue and towed it over to Düsseldorf. The Scruffy Motor Sport team gave it the once over, reached for their bag of spanners and half an hour later, Team Marvel were ready for the final leg!
Everyone enjoyed a great night out in the buzzing Düsseldorf city centre, home to “the longest bar in the world” and once more, the following morning saw a few contestants worse for wear but still upbeat for the final leg home.
As it was St George’s Day, many donned red and white attire for the journey back to England, with every one once again making great efforts to create a memorable atmosphere. Saturday morning's journey through Germany, Holland, Belgium and France saw no new casualties and everyone boarded the Eurotunnel safely.
Many of the competitors stayed in the Essex area to join partners for an end of rally party in Bishops Stortford. During the evening, a few awards were handed out and the rally finally came to an end.
“The whole experience has been an amazing adventure” said Danny Mussard, part of The Slag Brothers team. “Everyone had such a great time, we met really lovely people and it was great to drive through so many countries.”
Karl Vella, one half of The Vellaboys, started his journey from his home near Preston. “We’ve had a great time. It’s been non-stop laughs all the way, the atmosphere has been fantastic and I’ve made a lot of new friends as well as spending time with some of my motor industry buddies”.
Final figures are not yet available but it is thought this event alone will have raised over £20,000. Morag Linwood said “We can’t thank the contestants enough for making this such a brilliant event and to all of their kind friends, families and colleagues who have donated and sponsored them. This money will help us continue moving the REALfriends programme forward, enabling us to support more bullied children around our region.
Bob added “Some of the money raised will also go back in to the motor industry to support our REALexperience programme, collaborating with AutoRaise to showcase this industry to young people, create new apprenticeship opportunities and help make the vehicle repair industry a career destination for young people”.
Roll on 2017!