26 May 2023

Super effort as Gong's Two Beers Racing Team smashes Shitbox Rally in $1000 'Mariokart'

| Katrina Condie
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Men standing on car

The Two Beers Racing Team, Craig Towers and Tim Rodwell from Wollongong, finished the rally in their Mariokart. Photo: Shitbox Rally.

It was a super effort, but two Wollongong drivers managed to cross the finish line in their tricked up 2006 Suzuki Swift after driving 4000 km from Newcastle to Townsville – via Betoota – in the autumn Shitbox Rally.

As leading fundraisers – racking up $50,000 before they’d even hit the road – Craig Towers and Tim Rodwell of the Two Beers Racing Team earned the honour of leading more than 250 cars out of Newcastle in their $1000 ‘Mariokart’ on 12 May.

From then on, it was seven dirty days filled with dust, dress-ups, a few breakdowns and loads of laughs as the pair made their way through the outback raising funds for the Cancer Council.

Passing through towns most of us have never heard of, like Dunedoo, Tibooburra, Packsaddle and Innamincka, Craig said it was incredible to see parts of the country they hadn’t experienced before with “an awesome bunch of likeminded people” who wanted to raise money for cancer research.

Craig and Tim have been mates for more than 30 years and taking part in the event has been on their bucket list since Craig heard the Shitbox Rally founder James Freeman on the radio about 13 years ago.

Cancer is a cause close to both of their hearts, with Tim battling prostate cancer after being diagnosed in 2015 at 45, and Craig losing his dad 40 years ago to stomach cancer when he was only 41.

“Having now passed that age myself, it saddens me to think of how much living he missed out on,” Craig said.

“My dad’s cancer, after years of research, now has a pretty good survival rate. The same can’t be said for many other cancers.

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“We plan to raise as much money as we can to get cures progressed so others don’t have to suffer.”

Tim said he was “very lucky” that his cancer was picked up early during a non-routine blood test.

“With no family history, PSA testing would normally only start at age 50,” he said.

“By the time they operated it had spread into an adjacent lymph node, which then resulted in a further six and a half weeks of daily radiotherapy.

“Sadly, two of my group of four who went through radiotherapy have now passed away,” he added.

The pair started with a fundraising goal of $15,000, but their total has now exceeded $60,000. The autumn event has so far raised more than $2.2 million for the Cancer Council, with money still coming in.

Craig said he felt an “extreme sense of accomplishment having been able to make it all the way to the end considering how harsh some of the roads were, and having been able to raise so much money for such a good cause”.

As a cancer survivor, Tim said it was “an honour and a privilege to ‘send it’ with a bunch of likeminded people and good mates”.

“What a ride! From the gun barrel-straight highways to the rocky creek beds around Innamincka, this was an amazing experience driving a lowered Suzuki Swift around outback Australia raising money for cancer research,” he added.

Along the way they picked up some new bush mechanic skills and made many new friends within the “Shitbox family”.

While cancer and raising funds remains the top priority, having fun is an essential ingredient that has ensured the Shitbox Rally’s overwhelming success, raising almost $38 million since the first event in 2009.

Two Beers Racing Team made an impressive sight rolling through the outback in their little Mariokart dressed as Mario and Luigi from the Mario Brothers, but Craig said, when they dressed up as circus performers on day two, from Nyngan to Packsaddle, and princesses on day four, from Innamincka to Betoota, the fun stepped up a few gears.

“The reactions of locals in these small country towns when hundreds of cars dressed in crazy costumes descended on their town was priceless,” he said.

“It must have been funny seeing guys dressed in princess costumes lying under their cars fixing them on the side of the road.”

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The Mariokart, plastered with sponsor stickers and the names of friends and family taken too soon, managed to handle the dirt roads, but finally succumbed to the “dreaded rock monster” and cracked an engine sump near the Burke and Wills Dig Tree on day three. The car was towed into camp and repaired, but was smashed again on a cattle grid later in the trip, and again repaired by the support crews.

Craig said a highlight of the trip was all cars in their buddy group getting through a deep sandy river crossing without getting bogged, while the majority of the teams were diverted along a different route to avoid delays getting into camp for the night.

He said after “watching a couple of episodes of Bush Mechanic” Tim was able to make some modifications to the suspension along the way to avoid bottoming out on the unsealed roads.

Craig is a mechanical engineer at BlueScope Steel in Port Kembla and Tim is a mechanical engineer/project manager at PPM, currently working within BlueScope Steel.

Eight teams from Wollongong took part in the autumn rally, with entrants preparing their cars for the spring rally from Port Douglas to Adelaide to be held in October.

You can still donate to the Two Beers Racing Team HERE.

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