Cars hit the (dirt) road for a good cause

The Cobram Courier - - NEWS - By Gra­hame Whyte

The Cys­tic Fi­bro­sis Great Es­cape is now on and some of the cars passed through Co­bram on Satur­day, paus­ing for a pit stop and lunch at the Grand Cen­tral Ho­tel.

Co­bram par­tic­i­pants Grant and Chrissy Wil­lis are now ex­pe­ri­enced rally driv­ers.

‘‘We did it last year and it was very suc­cess­ful — the whole rally earned just over $300 000,’’ Mr Wil­lis said.

‘‘It’s a great bunch of peo­ple to raise money with, they’re all very like-minded,’’ he said.

‘‘We did lo­cal fundrais­ing — we held a few raf­fles and gained spon­sors di­rectly from lo­cal busi­nesses.

‘‘They’ve been re­ally great, they’ve re­ally jumped on the band­wagon for us.’’

The lo­cal cou­ple’s rally car is dis­tinc­tive, to say the least, in its hot pink liv­ery and adorned with spon­sor and rally signs.

It’s a well-loved 1969 Holden HT sta­tion wagon owned by Mr Wil­lis’ cousin and has been on the rally cir­cuit for the past 16 years.

‘‘We’re bor­row­ing it to do the rally, oth­er­wise it was go­ing to be re­tired,’’ Mr Wil­lis said.

‘‘We de­cided it had a cou­ple of more ral­lies left in it.

‘‘Cys­tic fi­bro­sis is a fan­tas­tic cause — it isn’t govern­ment funded and ba­si­cally the fundrais­ing money is what they’ve got to work with and to do the re­search.

‘‘The peo­ple here at the Grand Cen­tral Ho­tel are from the Grif­fith and Lee­ton area, while other rally par­tic­i­pants are on their way from Syd­ney and Perth — from all around Aus­tralia and con­verg­ing on Ararat.

‘‘Then we head off on Mon­day morn­ing in the rally to Coober Pedy and work our way back to fin­ish in Mt Gam­bier.

‘‘It’s 10 days in to­tal, all on the by­ways, pre­dom­i­nantly dirt. The cars are all set up for that with beefed-up sus­pen­sion and bash plates un­der­neath them.

‘‘No four-wheel drives are al­lowed, only two-wheel drives and they must be at least 20 years old.’’

Mr Wil­lis said high­lights of the rally in­cluded the ca­ma­raderie and driv­ing the dirt roads.

‘‘The scenery changes by the minute — it’s a great way to see the coun­try.’’

The Cys­tic Fi­bro­sis Great Es­cape rally at­tracts 40-plus cars each year with more than 150 par­tic­i­pants.

In the past 15 years the rally has vis­ited nu­mer­ous lo­ca­tions in­clud­ing Dubbo, Noosa, By­ron Bay, Back O’Bourke, Shep­par­ton, Port Arthur, Ho­bart, Mudgee, Rain­bow Beach, Nel­son Bay, Orange, Mer­im­bula, Port Dou­glas, Un­dara Lava Tubes, Great Keppel Is­land, Fraser Is­land, the Red Cen­tre and Uluru, the Whit­sun­days, the Great Ocean Road, Burke and Wills’ Dig Tree, Bate­mans Bay and Kan­ga­roo Is­land.

Revved up: Grant and Chrissy Wil­lis get set to leave Co­bram on the Cys­tic Fi­bro­sis Great Es­cape rally.

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