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The Women’s Motor Racing Associates Club, famed as The Doghouse Owners’ Club, is proud to support this year’s Beaujolais Run, which is held in aid of the Henry Surtees Foundation, one of the Club’s chosen charities for 2014.

Former BRM and Williams Grand Prix driver, BRDC Vice President and honouree Doghouse Member, Howden Ganley explains: “As the BRDC is the Who’s Who of British Motorsport, so The Doghouse Club is the equivalent on the other side of the gender fence, with many famous names still involved and with many so well connected within motorsport circles.”

John Surtees OBE, who in 2010 became the first patron of The Beaujolais Run, will flag off the hundreds of vehicles at 12 noon on Sunday 17 November from the Royal Automobile Club, Woodcote Park, Epsom in Surrey.

Accepting the invitation to take part, three teams will champion this unique Club,  they are:

‘Doghouse Betsy’ – Caroline Hobbs and Tiffany Barker, BMW Z3
‘Doghouse Dolls’ – Diane Ralph and Elizabeth Walkinshaw, Mercedes 300SL
‘Doghouse Barkers’ – Kate Cottingham and Linda Pearcy, Maserati 4200

Elizabeth Walkinshaw (Doghouse Dolls) said: “It’s fantastic to be joining this historic charity event. The Henry Surtees Foundation is close to my heart, as my son Fergus raced with Henry. I couldn’t think of a more fitting way for The Doghouse Owners’ Club to raise funds in his memory.”

Diane Ralph (Doghouse Dolls) added: “It will be fun to be in the driving seat through the motor-friendly roads of France in the company of great ‘Doghouse’ girls, raising some money for the Henry Surtees Foundation and enjoying a little wine in the evening.”

Kate Cottingham (Doghouse Barkers) said: “After years of watching my husband (David) pirouette round the racetrack, navigate, hold the pitboard, check stopwatches and hand out bottled water, I thought it would be fun to take part in the Beaujolais Run under the Doghouse umbrella. We hope we can add some interest and fun to the event and raise money for the charity.”

As the Beaujolais Run commemorates the centenary of World War One in the event’s 44th  running, Surtees will lead the teams to visit the city of Bruges and the battlefields of Flanders. Travelling to Tyne Cot, Passchendaele and Mons, en route to Reims; competitors will be thrown back to 1914, as they take their place in the trenches, to reflect and pay homage to the hundreds of thousands of lives lost on both sides in the war.

Caroline Hobbs (Doghouse Betsy) said: “I appreciate the significance and heritage of the run, and – as an organiser of motor racing events – it will be great to be behind the wheel for a change!”

Having travelled through the Menin Gate and over the Messine Ridge, teams will arrive in Reims to visit the cellars of Champagne Taittinger; itself a military hospital during WW1 and a place of refuge during the battle of the Marne.

Tiffany Barker (Doghouse Betsy) added: “I am a petrol head with an appreciation of all things French and alcoholic, with a genuine wish to benefit charity from my enjoyment.”

During the event, teams will have to solve a navigational challenge, finding five cryptic checkpoints along a WW1 route. Competitors have to cover the course in the shortest possible distance, making the event a level playing field for all types of vehicles.

Encompassing spectacular driving, both on and off the track, teams will then join winemakers of the region to carry a lit vine clipping, to witness the official release of the Nouveau Beaujolais, at one minute past midnight on Thursday 20 November.

Kate Cottingham’s team-mate Linda Pearcy (Doghouse Barkers) added: “It will be a challenge for us, as Kate and I have never driven together before, but when the idea was proposed it seemed a very good way of raising money for our chosen charity and having a lot of fun with some super driving.”

En route to repatriating the first bottles of this year’s vintage to the UK, competitors will dine at Champagne Taittinger’s Chateau de la Marquetterie. The Chateau was Marshal Joffre’s headquarters during the battle of the Marne and Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger owns Joffre’s original staff car, which will be present during an evening of commemoration, reflection and prizegiving.

Each team will be competing for the honour of achieving P1 on the grid the following year (highest fundraising team) and P2, the team which covers the shortest distance on the navigational trial between Rheims and Macon after visiting ‘secret’ way-points en route.

All sponsorship funds go directly to The Henry Surtees Foundation; a UK charity, inspired by the memory of John Surtees’ late son Henry, who was tragically killed in an accident at Brands Hatch in 2009. A percentage of the funds raised also goes to the Air Ambulance Services. Since 2010, when HSF was the Run’s appointed charity, many lives have been saved through its Air Ambulance Programme. In its 44-year history, The Beaujolais Run has benefitted many good causes.

The sponsorship money raised by each car goes in its entirety to the HSF and each participant has paid for all their own expenses.

Chairman Leonora Hill added: “This is a marvellous way to raise money for our charity, the Henry Surtees Foundation and wonderful to support John Surtees in the 50th anniversary year of his double world championships.”

Finally, the Doghouse teams invite everyone to follow their progress on Facebook and Twitter.

In 1970, at the Hotel Maritonnes, Joseph Berkmann and Clement Freud were sharing a dinner of Coq au Vin. Owner of eight London restaurants, Berkmann also ran his own wine distribution company and wrote a weekly column for The Sunday Times. Clement Freud was Director of the London Playboy Club, a respectable Member of Parliament and wine correspondent for The Sun.

Motivated by an evening quaffing copious quantities of wine, the germ of an idea took shape. Sometime after midnight, they roared away from Romaneche with several cases of 1970 Beaujolais in the back of each car, having challenged each other to be the first to get their cases to London.

The pair continued to compete against each other for the next two years; Berkmann won on both occasions. Having taken pot-shots at each other through their respective wine columns, word spread that something was afoot, and others rushed to join in; The Beaujolais Run was born.

In 1973, Alan Hall, columnist for The Times, published an article throwing down the gauntlet to Fleet Street – ‘Bring Back the Beaujolais’ – offering a bottle of Champagne for the first to deliver a bottle of the new vintage to his desk.

At that time, the object of the exercise was speed and this was brought to an end by the RAF,  who later took up the challenge in a Harrier and broke all records!

The Beaujolais Run has evolved to become a navigational shootout through a cryptic checkpoint course, which begins in the UK and ends in deepest Burgundy.

This format showcases the best the UK and France has to offer and ensures Austin, Aston Martin, Jaguar, Maserati and Morris can compete on a level playing field.

Maps, Sat Nav and laptops are all acceptable modes of navigation on the event. The Run attracts an impressive array of teams piloting supercars, classic cars, 4x4s, kit cars, specialist cars, daily drives and touring motorcycles. While the Run celebrates a marque each year, teams do not have to drive that marque to enter.

Teams compete for the honour of achieving P1 on the grid the following year (highest fundraising team) and P2, for the team which covers the shortest distance on the navigational trial between Rheims and Macon after visiting ‘secret’ way-points en route.

The primary aim of The Beaujolais Run is to raise money for the Henry Surtees Foundation: a UK charity inspired by the memory of John Surtees’ late son Henry who was tragically killed in an accident at Brands Hatch in 2009.

The HSF aims to:

– assist people with brain or physical injuries caused by an accident, to return to community living by the provision of support for equipment and facilities;
– provide education and training associated with motorsport-related programmes in technology, engineering and road safety instruction for two and four wheels;
– act as a resource for young people up to the age of 18, by providing advice and assistance, as well as organising programmes of physical, educational and other activities in order to advance young people in life by helping them to develop their skills, capacities and capabilities, so that they can participate in society as independent, mature and responsible individuals;
– advance their education; and relieve unemployment.

John Surtees OBE, who celebrates 50 years of his double world championship this year, said: “When I was asked to become a patron, the answer was not a difficult one. The opportunity of being involved with an event that includes travelling on fine French roads, through superb villages and visiting chateaux, together with superb wine, Champagne and food was hard to resist. The important point, however, is that all proceeds go to charity. I have to thank all concerned for nominating the charity set up in the name of my late son Henry. I will certainly ensure that every penny counts in helping causes for those who are less fortunate than ourselves.”

Rob Bellinger, Run Director, said: “It seemed appropriate on the centenary, to pay tribute to those who fell on all sides in World War One. No one must forget the great sacrifices that were made; we hope to make a positive contribution whilst commemorating the fallen.”

The Women’s Motor Racing Associates Club, universally known as The Doghouse Owners’ Club, was founded in 1962 by many of the top Grand Prix drivers’ and Constructors wives and other leading women in motorsport.

They aimed to establish a base at circuits for wives and their young families to meet, a Benevolent Fund to be used in the event of tragedy, and to support at least two charities. A bus, a tea dispenser and a caravan were their first purchases; clearly fund-raising was essential

The biennial Doghouse Balls with the show-stopping Doghouse Cabarets were sensational and brilliant fund-raisers, enabling the Club to donate close to £2million in today’s money to dozens of charities. Although it is 15 years since the last Doghouse Ball was held, fund-raising is still a prime aim of the Club as well as providing friendship and support.

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