How does a Singapore-based investment manager end up racing a 1968 classic car across the Australian outback? We chat with Aussie expat Ken Teagle of Rajah Blue Holdings about his involvement in the Great Endeavour Rally last year, his preparations for this year’s event (9-17 June), and how anyone who’s keen on a bit of an adventure can get involved.
How did you find out about the Great Endeavour Rally before entering last year?
2016 happened to be the official year of celebrating work colleague Mark’s 50th birthday – “The Festival of Rads” as it came to be known. In January 2016, we learned that a couple of Mark’s friends had volunteered to be marshals for a charity rally, which piqued our interest – a few of us had rallying on our bucket list. The rest is history; before we knew it, we’d formed a team, “The Rajah Blues Brothers”, signed up, bought a car and started raising funds for the charity.
In a nutshell, what’s the rally all about?
First and foremost, the Great Endeavour Rally is about raising funds for a fantastic cause. The Endeavour Foundation was formed in 1951 by a group of parents who wanted a better future for their kids with disabilities. Today, it has 230 facilities across Australia, providing support to thousands of individuals and families, through home life to school, social and community participation, accommodation, life skills and employment. The rally has been running for 30 years and raised more than A$9 million over that time; last year, 40 teams entered and raised a total of $300,000.
What type of car did you drive in the rally last year, how did you source it, and how did it perform?
We drove a classic 1968 Ford Fairlane previously owned by a couple of 80-year-old retired farmers. We found it advertised online and bought it sight unseen – they seemed like such trustworthy old fellows. The car’s name was Ethel, she was the star of the show and, as you will see, she’s now featured on the front page of the rally website!
What was the 2016 route like, and how is this year different?
Last year’s rally saw 40 teams drive 4,500km over 10 days, off-road through cattle stations from near Brisbane all the way to Ayers Rock. This year’s event starts in Yeppoon on the Queensland coast on 9 June, and over eight days will cover 3,000km of spectacular countryside throughout North Queensland, most of the time on dirt and mud tracks through private property. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience because these tracks are only open to the rally organisers by special arrangement with the landowners. The variety of countryside will be huge, from dusty outback to lush rainforests, many creek crossings, mountains, forests and remote beaches – and all the unique little country towns, pubs and communities in between. The aim is to have 50 teams/cars involved this year.
Give us an insight into a typical day for a team in the rally.
The rally is incredibly well organised: all meals are catered for, routes are mapped out in minute detail, and there are marshals and checkpoints so you don’t get lost. Each vehicle is fitted with a device so organisers can track GPS location – an inbuilt alarm sounds if you go too far off course. It’s also compulsory to have your own UHF radio fitted, so cars can tune in for seamless communication. At the start, each team gets a big book of route instructions, breaking each day into four to five stages of around 100km each. We had four team members and rotated driving, navigating and back-seat relaxation. The designated navigator needs to be very alert, reading the instructions from the book to the driver and recording each landmark into the navi device to keep on course. The tracks are mostly off-road, and can be very rough and potholed, with water hazards, rocks and tree limbs – so the driving speed is quite modest. The winner of each stage in the rally (there are four or five stages per day) is determined by whoever records the time closest to the group average, so it’s not a race! It takes quite a bit of strategy and cunning to achieve the best scores. And you don’t need to worry about breaking down as the rally is supported by the Australian Army mechanics crew with their amazing vehicles and equipment workshop in tow.
There’s a camp each night at a designated campground in a small town – usually the show grounds, a footy club, or similar community facility. Some places consisted of just a pub and a service station. But the locals were always well prepared for a party, and turned on a great barbecue, bar and entertainment.
What’s your plan for this year’s event? Same car and team?
Our 2017 rally team remains the same, known as the Rajah Blues Brothers, formed by four guys from our office in Singapore. But we’re changing cars; sadly, we had to be realistic about remotely maintaining, registering, insuring and storing a 1968 classic in Australia, and Ethel deserved a better home – so she was sold recently. This year, we’re planning to buy a more standard vehicle, likely a 10- to 15-year-old SUV – it won’t look as cool, but we’ll be better prepared for those river crossings!
Last year we got to know the guys from Brisbane Motor Auctions (BMA), the major sponsors of the rally. They’ve kindly offered to prepare our 2017 car, removing the challenges we had last year. After the rally is done we will hand the vehicle back to BMA and they will sell it on consignment; this way we don’t have to bother about permanently keeping a vehicle in Australia.
How can someone sitting in Singapore get involved?
It would be fantastic to see more teams from Singapore joining in the fun. If you can drive a car, you can enter this rally. There are no special skills involved – except a sense of humour! All you need are two to four friends to sign up and start raising money for the charity. The rally organisers are super helpful and responsive to any questions, but new Singapore teams for 2017 will have a special advantage this year – the Rajah Blues Brothers are right here on their doorstep for immediate advice!
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