24 cars left Northfleet today in the Thunderball Rally, a race across Europe '007 style' organised by Keyline Builders Merchants in support of Prostate Cancer UK.
TV personality Tommy Walsh set the teams on their way from the Northfleet branch of Keyline, a leading specialist in heavy building materials, civils and drainage solutions to the construction industry.
Following an epic route inspired by the Bond film, the rally is a three day race against time to the top of the Bernese Oberland Alps in Switzerland and organisers are hoping to raise £100,000. Each of the 24 teams must compete in a car seen in any of the James Bond films - but cannot use a sat nav or travel on any major main roads.
Entries were received from Keyline, other parts of the Travis Perkins Group as well as customers and suppliers. Sponsors ACO, Lafarge, Tarmac, British Gypsum, Polypipe and Marshalls are all taking part, while Keyline Managing Director Andrew Harrison is taking part in a "clapped out" BMW Z3 along with his co-pilot Robin Proctor.
He said: "The Thunderball Rally is going to be a fantastic experience having run two successful rallies in the last couple of years. After the success of the Monte Carlo Rally in 2010 and The Italian Job rally in 2011, we decided a James Bond theme would be a great idea for this year's event. Robin Proctor and I have decided to drive a convertible BMW Z3 which has been in several James Bond films, we've really gone to town and wrapped the car in iconic characters from the James Bond films."
Prostate Cancer UK, formerly The Prostate Cancer Charity, has been Keyline's charity partner since the beginning of 2010 and Keyline has raised over £400,000 in the last two years.
Owen Sharp, Chief Executive at Prostate Cancer UK, said: "Keyline has given a phenomenal amount of support to the work of Prostate Cancer UK, both in terms of raising awareness and vital funds for research, campaigns and the Charity's support services, directly helping those affected by the disease.
"The Thunderball Rally is proof of their commitment to literally go that extra mile for the cause and I am thrilled to be taking part in it, alongside my co-driver, Mark Bishop, Director of Fundraising at the Charity. With no Sat Nav, I am hoping that mine and Mark's map reading skills are up to scratch, so that we end up in Switzerland, and not the other end of Europe!"
Andrew Harrison said: "Everyone within Keyline is proud of our relationship with Prostate Cancer UK. The partnership gives us an opportunity to engage with staff, suppliers and customers but more importantly increasing awareness of the effects of prostate cancer in men's health."
Tommy Walsh adds: "The Thunderball Rally is set to be a hugely successful event, raising both awareness and much needed funds for Prostate Cancer UK. Getting men to think about their health is never easy, but focusing on their love of cars may be just the way to do it.
"On behalf of Prostate Cancer UK, I would like to thank everyone at Keyline, including customers and all those involved in the rally for their support. The money raised will make an enormous difference to the 250,000 men in the UK currently living with prostate cancer. I hope that the teams have great fun throughout their trip and a safe journey home. I'm very jealous - because I should be going but I've got to work instead."
For more information or to donate please visit www.thunderballrally.co.uk/