UN refugee agency drivers win cheque in Rally of Monte-Carlo

News Stories, 5 February 2004

© UNHCR/F.Galati
Prince Albert of Monaco wears a UNHCR jacket before signalling the start of the race.

MONACO, Feb. 5 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency is richer by 20,000 euros after participating in the 7th Historic Rally of Monte-Carlo to promote refugee awareness and raise funds for its operations.

Prince Albert of Monaco handed the cheque on behalf of his father, Prince Rainier, to the UNHCR team on Tuesday. Prince Albert, wearing a UNHCR jacket, later signalled the departure of the cars on the last leg of the five-day event from the principality for the famous "Turini night" covering 1,607 km.

On Wednesday, at a gala dinner in the Sporting Club of Monaco, the president of the Automobile Club of Monaco received a UNHCR plaque to commemorate the successful partnership with the agency. The Club and two teams had agreed to support the refugee cause by racing under the UNHCR colours. Two cars, an Alpine A310 and an Alpine A110 carried the slogans "Together for UNHCR" and "Driving for hope."

Veteran rally driver Jean-Pierre Coppola placed 109th in a field of 290 cars. The second car driven by François Eloy, arrived 163rd.

The rally officially started in Copenhagen on Jan. 30. Other participants set off from Spain, Italy and France the following day. The UNHCR team departed from Reims in France, where the media and drivers of 100 cars had assembled for the punishing 830-km race to Vals-les-Bains in the French region of Ardèche.

On Sunday, the drivers completed a lap around Vals-les-Bains through the notoriously difficult passes of Burzet, Saint-Bonnet-le-Froid, Lalouvesc and Col de la Fayolle which were covered with snow and black ice. After a well-deserved rest overnight, the participants left for Gap, passing by Vercors, Haute Drôme and Dévoluy.

On Tuesday, the participants took on the Gap-Monaco run, reaching the principality early in the afternoon for a break before taking on the Turini night.

UNHCR staff followed the team in another car, talking to the media and distributing refugee pamphlets and information materials to crowds at major stops.

"The rally was a great, difficult and fascinating race that exemplified, yet again, the perseverance, endurance and courage that it takes to make it, on the race track and in the lives of refugees fleeing persecution," said UNHCR's Geneviève Bador.