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banger car rally
Greg and Donna with town mayor Barry Von Clemens.

Gillingham town councillor Donna Toye and her husband Greg Vann are heading off on a summer break with a difference – a 2,000-mile road trip across Europe in an old ‘banger’ to raise money for charity.

Having decided to take part in the ‘Rex to Nice’ banger rally – ‘Rex’ is a play on words with ‘wrecks’ –  the pair will drive through France, Switzerland and Italy over five days this July in Greg’s old 2006 mini.

They hope to raise at least £2,000 from the road trip, which will be divided equally between the St Mary Gillingham Scout Group and the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance.

banger rally
Greg, Donna and the Mini with members of the Gillingham Scout Group.

Already they have been pledged £1,500 and are hoping to top the £2,000 mark before they set off from France’s champagne capital Reims on July 11.

Donna and Greg say they decided to take part in the challenge after getting fed up with the constant stream of bad news in the country.

‘We just desperately wanted to be able to do something good and helpful,’ explains Donna.

‘We felt that rather than going to sit on a beach in Greece for two weeks we would do something different, and hopefully give a bit back,’ adds Greg.

A long-distance lorry driver who spends his working life  on the continent, Greg concedes that driving across France, Italy and Switzerland for the charity rally is something of a busman’s holiday.

‘I will admit that it was Donna’s idea but I will also admit that I jumped at the chance – I’m a complete petrol head!’ he says.

Under the banger rally rules, the car used by the couple to travel from Reims to the finishing line in Nice has to be worth under £500. They chose Greg’s old 2006 mini which spends most of its life gathering dust in a transport depot while he is driving abroad.

‘We’ve given it a damn good service, so fingers crossed it will get us there!’ he says.

The couple chose the Scouts as one of their charities for personal reasons. Greg was a scout back in the days when the late town crier Dave Wathen was head of the local Cub pack, while Donna’s two sons were in the local Cubs and and Scouts too. ‘The Scouts are just good for the town,’ says Greg.

As for the air ambulance, that was also chosen because of its importance to the town. ‘I think the ambulance should be funded by the government but obviously it isn’t so if we can get something for them, all well and good,’ says Greg.

air ambulance
The Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance.

‘In Gillingham we’re a long way from hospitals and a long way from ambulances, too, if they have to come from those hospitals, so the Air Ambulance is very important for this area,’ he says.

During the rally Donna will be keeping a daily blog on their Facebook page.

Anyone wanting to contribute to the couple’s charity fundraising can find out more here.

‘Whatever we raise will be split 50/50 between the two charities,’ says Greg. ‘We’re not taking any expenses out of the charity pot and are funding all expenses ourselves.’

For more about the rally itself visit here.

banger rally
Greg Vann, Donna Toye and the Mini that will take them across Europe.
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