Drivers in pole position for twin town fundraising trek

The teams on the grid at Le Mans

John Haw and former United player Matthew Bound as the Super Mario Brothers

Mick Morris, front left, with Tim Hocknell, Adrian Appleby and Lewis Herbert – all dressed as Robert De Niro’s character Travis Bickle from the film Taxi Driver

First published in News

A FOUR-DAY cross-country rally through France raised more than £80,000 for an Oxfordshire charity thanks to the efforts of keen petrolheads.

The Twin Town Challenge attracted 50 teams for the 1,000-mile jaunt from Witney to its twin town of Le Touquet, near Calais.

They took in race tracks Brands Hatch, Kent and Le Mans and Criox-en-Ternois in France during the Friday to Monday challenge.

Vehicles had to cost less than £500 and the event is expected to have raised at least £80,000 for Charlbury disability charity SpecialEffect through corporate sponsorship and entry fees.

They also faced 12 challenges like car manoeuvre courses, Aunt Sally tournaments, scavenger hunts and laps around race circuits.

John Haw, from Ramsbury, Wiltshire, spent the weekend dressed as Nintendo video game icon Super Mario with ex-Oxford United player Matthew Bound, now of Swansea, as sidekick Luigi in a red BMW.

Mr Haw said: “It has been a brilliant and completely bonkers rally, people have been stopping us to ask for our photograph. At the racetrack we ragged our car pretty hard but it was amazing, I’ve decided to keep it because I love it so much.”

Deputy mayor of Le Touquet Bernard Baudoux welcomed the drivers at a civic ceremony on Friday.

And the weekend closed on Sunday night with a performance from visiting Stonesfield band The Village Idiots and a fundraising auction.

Lots included a day out behind the scenes at a Formula 1 race and a meal cooked by celebrity chef Antony Worrall Thompson.

It will be further boosted when teams auction their cars at West Oxfordshire Motor Auctions, Bromag Industrial Estate, Witney, on Thursday evening.

Chief organiser Brendan Cross said: “It has been fantastic on so many fronts.

“We have had a great time at the race tracks and relationships have been formed, but most importantly the generosity of everybody who took part has really shown.

“I am being asked to do it again next year already, and there is talk of taking 100 Minis down to Le Touquet, but I think I need a rest first.”

SpecialEffect founder and chief executive Dr Mick Donegan said cash generated would give the charity an opportunity to meet a rising demand for the services it provides. He said: “We will use the money to buy more equipment and employ more staff.

“Demand for what we do is going up all the time and we have been stretched recently.

“But this will allow us to keep creating those magic moments for people every day.”

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