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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Prince Takes Luzhkov for Spin




The sight of Mayor Yury Luzhkov being driven away from the Vasilyevsky Slope in a speeding antique car gave his security team a nervous moment. As the mayor disappeared around the corner, a police officer jumped in a Russian-manufactured Svyatogor car and tried to catch up.


Several minutes later, the bodyguards sighed with relief, as Luzhkov roared back into sight after a lap around the Kremlin with Prince Michael of Kent in the antique Bentley the prince drove to Moscow from Britain. The mayor was deposited safely back with his guards and got out with a big smile on his face.


Prince Michael and two dozen of his friends in their old Bentleys rolled onto Red Square on Wednesday in old-fashioned leather helmets and goggles, reaching the end of a 10-day journey for charity that began in Brooklands, England.


The Vintage Bentley Rally was held by the Friends of Russian Children charity to raise money for a pediatric burn center at Moscow's Speransky Hospital and to promote awareness of fire safety among Russian children, the prince told journalists in accented but grammatical Russian, which he said he studied some 30 years ago.


A building for the burn center has already been constructed by the Moscow city government, but equipping it will cost pounds 2.8 million ($4.4 million) said Carolyn Cripps, directory of Friends of Russian Children and a rally participant.


The rally featured 12 racing cars manufactured between 1926 and 1931 by Bentley, one of Britain's oldest and most esteemed automobile makers.


The participants covered over 3,000 kilometers and passed through Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki, Vyborg, St. Petersburg and Novgorod.


During the stops the rally participants held auctions where antique spare parts of their vehicles were sold. For example, a Bentley license plate was sold for pounds 2,000, a seat for pounds 5,000 and tires for pounds 1,600.


Cripps said it's too early to estimate the amount of money raised during the rally. They hope to finish raising the money by next summer.


The last stop before Moscow was on Tuesday in Zavidovo, some 140 kilometers north of Moscow, where President Boris Yeltsin's Rus residence is located.


When asked at what speed he was travelling, Prince Michael joked that only the traffic police officers would know, since his speedometer was not functioning well.


The entire journey went smoothly, the prince said, and none of the rally participants experienced any serious trouble with their cars.


"The trailer [which accompanied the rally] was not used at all," the prince said. "Of course, some of the roads were tough."


Two mechanics from the Royal Automobile Club, of which Prince Michael is a patron, traveled with the rally. Only once did they spend a night fixing one of the Bentleys.


Most vehicles participating in the rally carried enough fuel for up to 300 kilometers.


Racers proudly opened their hoods to show off the engines to admirers on Red Square.


Ulf Smith, 59, the owner of a 1931 Bentley, the newest car in the rally, said his vehicle could still reach 200 kilometers per hour.


"It was a fantastic experience to go in a group of friends to such interesting places," Smith said, adding that the cause of the rally made it all the more meaningful. And the police, he said, gave them the royal treatment.


"Police cleared the road everywhere during the whole rally. We felt like kings," he said.


The vehicles will now be shipped back to England, but the prince and the other rally participants will stay in Moscow for a charity dinner marking the conclusion of the rally to be held with Luzhkov on Thursday at the historic Kuskovo palace.