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Byron Shire
May 17, 2021

Astroboy survives the Shitbox

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Derry and Jane Thomas driving their old Corolla, AstroBoy. Photo supplied.

Anjali Dutton

Three years ago, Sydney couple Jane and Derry Thomas, inspired by the prospect of a ‘fantastic opportunity’ to raise money for cancer research, signed up to take part in a Shitbox Rally. This year the pair got underway and participated in the seven-day Shitbox rally from Melbourne to Townsville in a $425, 1999 Toyota Corolla named ‘Astroboy’.

The Shitbox Rally was founded over 10 years ago by James Freeman after he lost both parents from cancer 12 months apart. The Rally challenges teams to drive cars worth under $1,000 across some of Australia’s most formidable roads in the quest for cancer fundraising. The Rally has raised over 21 million dollars for Cancer Council. This year in its 10th anniversary, it successfully raised $2,362,128.

Achieving the unthinkable

According to its organisers, Shitbox Rally is not a race, but rather an adventure, a ‘challenge to achieve the unthinkable’. Derry and Jane described the experience of travelling with other teams as ‘wonderful’. The journey ‘brought everyone together – everyone has a story to tell’.

With 250 cars in the rally, the participants were organised into ‘buddy groups’ of 8 cars. If one car had an issue, the entire group had to wait – Astroboy had to stop for breakdowns 35 times in seven days! ‘We saw an awful lot of Australia’, commented Derry, noting the most striking part of the trip was visiting small communities and witnessing the drought affecting rural Australia. Due to a lack of water available in towns, teams could not shower during the rally.

Carbon neutral

For Jane and Derry, the Shitbox Rally was part of a longer trip of over 38 days, where they travelled from Wilson’s Promontory, Victoria, to the tip of Cape York, Queensland. Whilst the couple raised money for charity, the Thomas’ journey was also entirely carbon-neutral, with all emissions offset by their sponsors Pangolin Associates. Their trip – encompassing Sydney, the Mornington Peninsula, Birdsville and Cape York – was compensated for with 5 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent rainforest regeneration in Tasmania.

After a short stop in Mullumbimby, AstroBoy will arrive back in Sydney tomorrow after 10,000km. At the end of the rally, teams had to sell their cars, but the Thomases have bought their ‘indestructible’ car back. The pair said that they would happily do it again. Their advice to those that are thinking about taking part? ‘Sign up now. We loved it.’

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