The cheap versus chic of the rally world

If you see motoring as an endurance sport then rally racing might just be your thing, designed to test the endurance of a car and driver to the limit.

Behind the wheel for days on end, drivers navigate their way to various check-points, racing to the finish line. Depending on the race, they could be driving anything from a clapped-out banger worth £100 to a custom-made Ferrari worth more than a million.


The 2006 course followed a route from London to Vienna, Budapest and Belgrade. The drivers then boarded a plane in Serbia to be taken to Thailand for the race's second leg between Phuket and Bangkok. The final leg took place in the United States and ran from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles.

The rally draws celebrities and big spenders from all over the world, and this year cost £40,000 to enter. It is the brainchild of ex-Armani model Maximillian Cooper, who wanted to show his high-roller friends the time of their lives in a race through Europe. With this in mind, Max set about reawakening the rally spirit of 1930s America, taking the event's name from the movie The Gumball Rally (1976), which celebrated the legendary motorcyclist "Cannonball" Baker.

"It's important that the cars are representative of the people who enter them, rather than very expensive," says Max, whose office now receives around 2,000 car entrants a month. "So, for example, this year we had The Darkness racing in black Cadillacs that could probably do 50mph maximum. But then, we also had a Saudi prince who had a one-off Ferrari built specially. We also try to visit countries that have experienced political unrest or might otherwise benefit from the publicity, so we've had the Balkans and Kosovo en-route."

"I was always attracted to the idea of driving 3,000 miles with a load of interesting people, partying," says multi-millionaire Ezra Chapman, who raced a camouflage Rolls-Royce Phantom this year. His team scored the race's ultimate prize - the Spirit of Gumball Trophy - for crashing their car outside Serbia, managing to board the plane with minutes to spare, travelling more than 500 miles by taxi across Thailand, and completing the race with a brand new Rolls-Royce from Salt Lake City!


If you don't happen to have a few million pounds tucked in your back pocket then don't despair: there's still a way for you to race. Billed as an affordable alternative to Gumball 3000, the Ramshackle Rally poses only one entry criteria: cars must cost £100 or less. Conditions like these need different racing skills altogether, and teams often have to patch-up their own vehicles along the way.

The 2006 course started in Calais, France, before winding its way through Switzerland, Austria and Slovakia, finishing in Krakow, Poland. "It's a race for normal people who don't have piles of money, or lots of time to enter," says rally organiser Greg Parr. "The Ramshackle Rally is only a four-day race, so you don't need to quit your day job to do it. It's just fun really. People pick a theme for their vehicle, and they can dress up if they want to. This year the guys who won it drove a hearse, and dressed up as undertakers for the whole trip."


A North-east training provider is helping a 16-year-old girl from Stockton-on-Tees to achieve her goals in reaching the top in car racing, traditionally a male preserve.

Lyndsey Knott has been racing since she was 11, and was awarded third position in the junior drivers section at Yorkshire Dales Autograss for the 2005 season. She approached City Centre Training (CCT) in Thornaby and impressed the managing director, Ann Mitchell, so much that they offered her sponsorship.

This season has started very well for Lyndsey. In August, she won the second place trophy in the Sportway Challenge, a five-race meeting, and she was second in the Ladies' Class 11.

Autograss is a non-contact sport that operates on a 440-yard oval, soil track. Racing takes place in various classes with up to eight cars starting on a straight-line grid and racing over four to eight laps. Lyndsey's dad Steve, mum Jackie and brother David compete in different classes. She built her three race-ready cars with David and her dad, who is a motor vehicle training advisor at CCT.

CCT gives 14- to 19-year-old NVQ/VRQ students the opportunity to become involved in the motor industry. Lyndsey expects this year to be very hard as she competes for another championship and studies for her exams. She wants to pursue a career in IT and eventually work in the motor industry in car or engine design.

For more information telephone City Centre Training on 01642 232 322

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