The allure of the Purple4Polio Rotary Grand Tour enticed over 40 teams to feel the freedom of the open road, generating thousands of pounds for End Polio Now, Rotary’s campaign to protect every child in the world from the crippling disease.
Drivers and their crews in all kinds of vehicles visited as many Rotary checkpoints as was safely possible over four days of glorious May sunshine, before crossing the finish line at Halifax Minster in West Yorkshire.
One of the teams was Red Fox with a stunning convertible red Mini Cooper.
David Marklew, driver, reckoned it was a great way to meet the polio challenge.
He said: “The weather was fantastic and we were able to travel our route with the soft-top down and the wind in
“The looks which our liveried Mini received and the waves from members of the public were tremendous.
“People were asking what we were doing, and the chance to tell them about polio eradication generated great publicity for our campaign.”
Denise Rudgely and Val Browning from the Rotary Club of Ashburton Buckfastleigh in Devon, enjoyed a scenic drive to Halifax.
They visited Powderham Castle in Devon, the Haynes Museum in Somerset and the Williams F1 Conference Centre in Wantage, Oxfordshire, where Denise realised a life-long dream.
She said: “We were able to walk under the circuit via the tunnel and stand on the winner’s podium. As a petrol-head, this was an immensely pleasing thing to do.
“The lasting memory for me is that I am proud to have done it for such a worthy cause.”
Bob Maskall, wife Kate and Syd Owen, all from Bangor Gwynedd Rotary in Wales, had a great time with their MG ZR160.
“The best bit by far was the fun of meeting lots of different Rotary members in some unusual places,” said Bob.
“We started from Bangor and travelled to Glasgow via Llandudno and Drumlanrig Castle in Dumfries & Galloway.
“Day two saw us head south for the Beamish Museum in County Durham, Ye Olde Bell Hotel in Nottinghamshire and the Rockingham Motor Speedway in Northamptonshire.”
The checkpoints were breath-taking and included the Monnow Bridge in Monmouth – the only remaining fortified bridge in the UK – the Brands Hatch racing circuit in Kent, as well as the Firth of Forth crossings in Scotland.
It is estimated that over £50,000 was raised. With the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation promise to triple funds, the final figure will be considerably more.
As well as winning fund-raising efforts, there were a few other prizes too.
The oldest car was an easy victory for Peter and Gwen Bramwell’s AJS 9 from the 1930s. A Vauxhall Zafira driven by Michael and Margaret Longdon of West Ashfield Rotary in Nottinghamshire, who travelled as THE2M’s, clocked up the greatest distance with 2,250 miles.
Gordon Wellington, Morriston Rotary in Swansea, managed to bag most of the checkpoints and got a bonus point for flying over to Ireland.
Mr Dumpy, a flat-bed transit which became a mobile advert for End Polio Now, took home the best dressed vehicle award.
Roger Frank, along with friends John Taylor, Alan McViety and Arthur Littlefair from clubs across Cumbria, found the tired builder’s workhorse and fixed it up.
Months of hard work paid off and the trusty, instead of rusty transit, carried them around the country. The team, affectionately known as the Murmansk 4, raised a staggering £1,600. As for Mr Dumpy, he has been stripped back to his former self and sold on to raise even more for the cause.
The award for longest driving hours went to team Windermere Rotary Against Polio with an indefatigable Audi A6.
Rotary GB and Ireland President and grand tour creator Denis Spiller thinks the grand tour will drive again.
He said: “’Can we do it again next year?’ was the frequent request as we all gathered at Halifax Minster for the finish line party.
It was only intended as a one-off, but if we can come up with a new spin, then maybe 2020 will be time for a second lap of Great Britain and Ireland.
“Thank you one and all. This has generated so much fun and fellowship.
“I am still on a high and the best news of all is that it looks like we have raised over £50,000 for polio eradication even before the Gates uplift.”
For more information visit: endpolionow.org