Cars hit the (dirt) road for a good cause

September 06, 2017

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

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 $300000,’’ 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.

- Grahame Whyte

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