Claudine Bloom and Andy Twort enjoying a warm welcome home at the American Express Community Stadium, home of Brighton & Hove Football Club.  Photos courtesy of Paul Hazlewood.
Claudine Bloom and Andy Twort enjoying a warm welcome home at the American Express Community Stadium, home of Brighton & Hove Football Club.  Photos courtesy of Paul Hazlewood.

Peking to Paris rally drivers go the distance!

Hove rally driver and navigator, Claudine Bloom, and her co-driver, Andy Twort, received a stadium-sized welcome home at the Amex after taking part in the gruelling 36 day, 8,500 mile Peking to Paris Endurance Car Rally.

The intrepid duo set off on 12 June in ‘Amy Amazon’, their 1965 Volvo Amazon car, with the intention of not only completing the tough course through desert and mountainous terrain, but also raising funds for Sussex children’s hospice, Chestnut Tree House.

Claudine, aged 65, was a guest at the Chestnut Tree House Snowman Spectacular Ball last December in Brighton and was so moved by hearing about the hospice’s work caring for children with life-shortening illnesses right across Sussex, that she decided that she would do the rally to raise funds to continue this vital service for local families.

Claudine said, “Chestnut Tree House needs to raise £6,850 every single day to pay for all the care services, both at the hospice and in families’ own homes across Sussex. At the Ball I heard one of the mothers speak about the care her family received and, having visited Chestnut Tree House myself, I know what a difference their care makes to local children and their families.”

All the cars taking part in the Peking to Paris Rally had to be pre-1975 – Amy is a 1965 Volvo Amazon 122 model. She had her own Facebook page and was accompanied on the journey by hospice mascot, Chestnut Bear. Both car and bear sent reports, pictures and videos of their progress throughout the trip. As each team was only allowed to take what they could carry, they had to bring all their spares with them and be able to fix the car if it broke down. Apart from having a leak in the fuel tank, Amy Amazon remained in good shape throughout the rally, coming through to take 14th place overall, 3rd place in their class and won a coveted gold medal for achieving every single one of their time trials.

Claudine said, “Not in a million years did I think we would do so well. Four cars rolled, one went over a 100 foot drop (luckily the crew were OK) and all around us seemed to be falling apart but we kept plodding on at about 90km per hour – hour after hour!

“One of the best parts of the trip was going through Mongolia. There were no roads and very few people but it is an amazing country with spectacular scenery.

“In Russia, we had the most fantastic welcome. Everywhere we went there were crowds lining the route, flags waving and civic receptions for us – we felt like heroes!

“Wherever we went we took Chestnut Bear with us and everyone from the children to the Mongolian monks wanted to know about him and the hospice. He had his photo taken numerous times and was featured twice on Russian TV – he helped open a lot of conversations so really did help spread the word about the wonderful work Chestnut Tree House does caring for children with life-shortening illnesses.

“All in all, it was a mind-blowingly amazing experience and I would do it all again in a heartbeat.”

Not content to rest on their laurels, Claudine, Andy – and Amy – are already planning their next adventure – the Sun Run through France in November.

You can read all about their amazing achievement on Amy Amazon’s Facebook page and it’s not too late to support Claudine, Andy, Amy and Chestnut Tree House – they are keeping their JustGiving page open for a little longer –

The pair are also raising funds for The Leanne Fund which supports Cystic Fibrosis sufferers and was set up in 2009 in memory of Leanne Mitchell. The charity funds special treats and a range of support services for young people affected by Cystic Fibrosis and their families in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.

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