Leeds rally drivers reunited 20 years after gruelling Peking to Paris challenge

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ALMOST 100 drivers who took part in a gruelling 11,000 mile Peking to Paris rally 20 years ago have roared into Wetherby’s Bowcliffe Hall, many in the same vintage cars they completed the challenge in.

The nostalgic reunion was hosted by Bowcliffe Hall owner Jonathan Turner – a rally enthusiast who completed the epic 45-day journey in his 1929 4.5 litre Bentley.

The rally itself was held to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the world’s first international motor rally in 1907, when Prince Borghese encouraged a few pioneer motorists to race half way around the globe to prove to the world that the motorcar was an alternative form of transport to the train.

Now some of the route is dangerously impassible, such as parts of Pakistan which are now a Taliban stronghold. Even when the rally took place, it was not entirely safe, with some entrants faced with guns and tanks along the way.

At the event on Wednesday, drivers brought their cars from as far as Luxemburg, Germany and Austria, with others travelled from Australia, Canada and the United States to re-connect with the people they had met along the way.

Mr Turner, who completed the rally when he was 31 with fellow driver, Adam Hartley from Shadwell, said: “The rally dramatically changed my life. To have the opportunity to travel across so many glorious countries and continents in a vintage car and meet fellow adventurers from around the world was a big game changer for me.

One of the cars at the reunion. Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe

One of the cars at the reunion. Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe

“The highlight was the Himalayas and camping whilst looking at Everest. That thought still brings tears to my eyes.

“This is the first time we’ve these people have got back together - but an adventure like that binds you together. I’ve been staggered by how many people have come along, and how far they’ve travelled.

“Some are in their 80s and 90s now, and it there has been a lot of catching up over old photographs.”

Bowcliffe Hall owner and serial entrepreneur, Jonathan Turner, left, who completed the epic 45-day journey in his 1929 4.5 litre Bentley with fellow driver, Adam Hartley, right, from Shadwell.

Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe

Bowcliffe Hall owner and serial entrepreneur, Jonathan Turner, left, who completed the epic 45-day journey in his 1929 4.5 litre Bentley with fellow driver, Adam Hartley, right, from Shadwell. Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe

Jonathan Turner in 1997

Jonathan Turner in 1997

Almost 100 people were expected at the reunion dinner. 
Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe

Almost 100 people were expected at the reunion dinner. Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe

Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe

Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe

Paula Dillon, President of Leeds Chamber Commerce.

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