British-Georgian Classic Car Rally Set to Promote Georgia

Exclusive interview

On May 27, female track car driver and classic car racer Zoe Whittaker will be launching the first classic car rally in Georgia as part of her ongoing project ‘Driving with Zoe,’ which will see numerous classic cars rallying around the Georgian countryside with drivers taking in the best sights and Georgian hospitality, finalized by a Gala dinner on June 1 to raise funds for a charity that caught Zoe’s eye on her last visit here: the Temi Community.

GEORGIA TODAY caught up with her a second time to find out the latest news.

Tell us the latest on Georgia’s first ever historic classic car rally

We are organizing this rally as a joint project with the British Georgian Chamber of Commerce (BGCC). The project has a great importance for promoting Georgia and is truly multidimensional. The first ever classic car rally is going to be filmed by the ABK studio, and we have international press and media covering the project (BBC World Service, Kazakh TV7, Ukrainian TV, FT Weekender, and others).

We’ve got many government officials now backing the rally, including HE Ambassador of Georgia to the UK, Tamar Beruchashvili and HE Ambassador of the UK to Georgia, Justin McKenzie Smith. We also have the Mayor of Tbilisi starting the rally and have huge support from the Minister of Tourism and Georgian Automobile Federation, along with all our project partners who have been instrumental in helping with the organization of the rally, such as Georgian Airways, Rooms Hotel, Trans Transit, Benefit insurance, Premier Events, Blue Water Shipping, among many others.

We have several big sponsors supporting the event and have had a great response from the press and media globally with the BBC World Service covering the rally along with the Financial Times, Harper’s Bazar, and Octane Magazine, to name just a few.

We can also confirm that the Georgian rally will now be an annual event with next year’s rally covering some of the Silk Road trail from Batumi to Baku, and we have several beautiful pre-war cars already signed up for it.

Which historic cars will be participating in the 2018 rally?

We are pleased to say that we have ten classic cars confirmed for the rally. Half the participants are from the UK and half from Georgia, which is what I wanted to achieve. I wanted to bring this historic rally to the people of Georgia as well as to those in the UK.

The cars will be on display in Tbilisi as part of the 100 Years of Georgian Independence on Saturday 26th May.

We have a vast array of cars attending the rally- from the oldest, a 1937 Rover and 1954 Jaguar Mark 2, to the youngest which is a 1980 Mercedes 280SLC. I will be in my 1957 Porsche 356A.

This year we might have Jen Cobb, who is a female NASCAR driver in the States join us for part of the rally, but this is dependent on her racing schedule.

You have chosen to raise awareness for Temi Vineyard through this rally. Tell us about it

Temi Community is a project founded by Martin Pope. The community only employs people with disabilities and the odd traveling student looking for summer work. They are striving to be self-sufficient, from having their own wine production, bakery and growing their own fruit and vegetables, to producing wine to sell to help support and develop the community.

One of my friends in the UK introduced me to Martin Pope, who has lived in Tbilisi with his Georgian wife, Maka Gotsiridze, since 2007. Martin is the Honorary Chairman and principal benefactor of Temi Community. He invited Mako Abashidze and myself down to Kakheti to see things for ourselves. What we found was a group of over 60 people, from infants under one to senior citizens over 70, some half of which have learning difficulties and special needs.

The ambiance was incredible; this mixed-ability group living as a large, extended and happy family, all caring for each other as best they can. The genuine smiles we witnessed were a real testament to the work and leadership of Nika Kvashali, the charismatic, but low-profile President who started Temi 30 years ago and has lived in the community near Gremi village continuously since then.

The Temi Community is striving to develop sales of their prize-winning, organic wine and wine tourism as a way of making themselves financially independent.

For this to happen, Temi needs to raise its profile and be able to raise money so that they can increase their wine sales. Not only do they need funding to help grow the business but most importantly, they need financial support to be able to afford the psychiatric and therapeutic care that many of their community members need and deserve.

Mako and I agreed that we would do our utmost to assist Temi to raise their profile and to "help them to help themselves". What better way to do this than to make them one of the stops on our classic car rally and a beneficiary of our Gala Dinner? So, early morning on the 27th May, you will find our classic car rally starting from Tbilisi and, after visiting Temi, we'll spend the night at Kvareli Eden, not far away.

Tell us more about the Gala Dinner, including the program of entertainment and auction items

The Black-Tie Gala Dinner is to celebrate the launch of the “Driving With Zoë” projects and to celebrate Georgia’s first historic classic car rally and, most importantly, to raise awareness for the Temi Vineyard and Community who help people with disabilities into the working environment.

The Gala will take place on Friday June 1 at the picturesque Underwheel venue in Tbilisi. The event will be attended by members of the UK parliament, Ambassador Beruchashvili and Ambassador Smith, as well as the Mayor of Tbilisi, Kakha Kaladze, and other representatives of the Georgian government and international businesses.

The historic cars that will have participated in the historic rally will be on display at the venue. We also have a full program of entertainment, including an auction which will have some specially selected items for sale to raise money for the charity, Temi. Oliver Pool, famous British musician and classical piano performer, kindly agreed to arrange the entertainment program for the evening- he will be performing himself with Georgian and British friends. We also have a nice selection of auction prizes which we would like to keep secret until the Gala.

By Katie Ruth Davies

09 April 2018 17:39