In just under a month, 20 teams from the bodyshop industry (and 26 teams in total) will set off from Essex for a three-day and (hopefully) four-wheeled tour of Europe to raise funds for the vehicle repair industry's charity, AutoRaise.
On Wednesday 17th May 2017 the REAL Rally competitors will leave Essex for three days of "motorcar mayhem", each in a vehicle that has been bought and prepped for less than £1,000.
Last year's rally raised an incredible £35,000. With a heroic effort, Morelli raised more than £5,000. The Martini Boys, headed up by Chris Brightmore from Chartwell, Kevin Richardson (Lloyd Bodyshop) and Steve Wells, raised a massive £4,280.
Other notable contributions were £3,120 raised by the Innovation/Veetec team (with drivers Chris Weeks and Karam Singh), £2,000 by The Three Amigo's (three old school friends lead by Julian Morris of Elite Bodyshop in Northampton) and the Apollo Motor Group team, Pinky and Perky raised £2,325.
So this year the challenge is on!
The starting grid for the 2017 rally is at the Eurotunnel terminal at Folkestone. After a hearty breakfast the contestants shall be boarding their trusty bangers (or in some cases, classics!) to take the short journey under the English Channel and in to France.
It was at that point last year that the inaugural REAL Rally claimed its first and only victim, Paul Morgan and Sean Quinn's Renault 12. It was always going to be a long shot for finishing the whole Rally but everyone had higher hopes that getting further than the end of the train ramp at Calais Eurotunnel! Paul and Sean managed to climb aboard The Slag Brothers trusty A6 for the remainder of the rally and the four of them will be doing it together again this year.
The organisers of the 2017 REAL Rally, the Essex-based children's charity, REAL - the Ethan Rees Linwood Memorial Fund, have promised a "much shorter and more tranquil journey" which takes competitors through the back roads of northern France and southern Belgium in to the beautiful medieval city of Bruges. Contestants will be sampling a few of the local delicacies that evening, with plenty of chocolate and micro- breweries to savour.
"The plan this year is to plenty of stops in route and keep to a convoy," said Bob Linwood, AutoRaise CEO and founder and trustee of the charity set up in memory of his son Ethan. "Picnics and barbecues will provide much-needed fuel."
After a "lazy and relatively late" breakfast on Thursday, the entrants will gather on the outskirts of Bruges to take in another leisurely drive back through the French border, through the poignant area that marks the battlefields of WW1 and onwards to Thursday night's destination; the famous Parisian playground of the rich known as Le Touquet. "The cars and their occupants will be cooling throughout the evening and there is sure to be some stories created for the next morning," said Bob.
"On Friday morning, everyone shall be making their way back to England via the Eurotunnel again and hopefully all of our vehicles will still be intact and with us. And the return to the shores of England will mark the end of what we are sure will be another funny and memorable experience for everyone involved."
It's essential that the industry gets behind addressing the skills shortage, whether it be taking on new apprentices, hosting Industry Showcase Events or simply helping to spread the word.