They’ll be wearing crisp white shirts at the start of each day, but by sunset, Michael Wallace and Scott Sheppard are sure to be dirty, dusty and dripping with sweat after hitting the road for their second Shitbox Rally adventure.
Calling themselves ‘The White Shirts’, the two motorsports officials will travel cross country from Rockhampton to Hobart, via the Artesian Basin, from 17 to 25 March for the Cancer Council’s biggest and most outrageous fundraising event.
Their ‘shitbox’ of choice is a pale blue 2003 Saab, which they bought at auction and tricked up for the rally.
Michael says they chose the 20-year-old Saab because they wanted something different from the Ford Falcons and Subarus which are a dime a dozen in the event.
“We wanted something European and a bit different. But, if it breaks down, it will be very hard to get parts for,” he added.
“It’s a great little car, but there’s no air conditioning, so it’s going to be really hot driving through western Queensland and western NSW.”
Michael said he was keen to take part in this year’s event after seeing the rally route, which will take them from ‘Rocky’ in far north Queensland through the remote outback towns of Tambo, Eulo and Tooleybuc before crossing Bass Strait aboard the Spirit of Tasmania to Strahan, and finally Hobart.
“We participated in the Melbourne to Townsville event in 2019, and we have been eager to participate again since then – and the time and route are just right,” he said.
“I’m looking forward to seeing parts of Australia that I’ve never seen before and might not see again.”
Apart from the glorious scenery, Michael says making friends and getting to know the other participants was a huge social aspect of the rally.
“When you break down everyone comes together to patch the car up and get you going again. Just making it to each day’s destination is a bit of an achievement,” he said.
“It’s also great meeting the local community groups along the way and chatting.”
The dress-up days and nighttime shenanigans are always a hoot, and Michael said he was surprised by how “committed” some teams were to their themes and costumes.
“Last time, a guy was dressed as the bus driver from The Simpsons and covered himself in yellow body paint for the entire trip. And it’s always fun driving through the outback wearing a dress,” he laughed.
While it’s the adventure of a lifetime that challenges participants and their cars during the seven-day drive across Australia, the ultimate goal is to raise money for cancer research.
The Canberra duo are dedicating their participation to Michael’s daughter, Olivia, who passed away in 2008 due to blood cancer, and to Scott’s cousin Rick who lost his battle with brain cancer in 2016 at the age of 46.
Both men have lost family, friends and loved ones to cancer and are keen to raise funds for the cause.
The pair raised almost $15,000 for the Cancer Council in 2019 and hope to equal or exceed that amount this year. With the gold sponsorship of Rubik3, they are well on their way, having already raised more than $10,000.
Rubik3 CEO Guy Earnshaw, who wishes he had the time to take part, said he was excited to jump on board and sponsor The White Shirts.
“This year, when they wanted to do it again, we were keen to help them continue their great work,” Guy said.
“Everybody is touched by cancer, so while I’d love to have the time to do it myself, I’m excited to be able to support them.
“I want to wish them the best and may the dust not get in their eyes.”
Michael lives in Wanniassa and Scott currently resides in Brisbane, so the pair are looking forward to catching up during the trip and taking turns behind the wheel.
Michael says they are extremely proud to be doing their part to support such a worthy charity.
“The fundraising is the hard part, so any donation you can give is greatly appreciated,” he said.
The Summer rally is one of three Shitbox rallies being held this year, with teams tackling the back roads from Newcastle to Townsville in May, followed by Port Douglas to Adelaide in October. Since its inception, the Shitbox Rally has raised more than $36 million for the Cancer Council.
Jump onto The White Shirts Shitbox Rally fundraising page to read their blog and donate.