Houses of Parliament to host rally to Cape Town

The Houses of Parliament host the start of the London to Cape Town World Cup Rally on 1 January 2012, when 44 cars will set off on a timed rally, covering 10,000 miles in 27 driving days across 14 countries, touching three continents.

 Three years in the making, the route organised by The Endurance Rally Association crosses France, Italy, Greece, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Namibia and South Africa, against the clock.

 It is the first time ever that an international rally has crossed the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia - crews take a ferry from Egypt to cross the Red Sea, driving to Jeddah to re-cross to Sudan.

 Crews taking part from ten different countries compete for the World Cup; they face desert conditions in Egypt, a drive through the desert of Northern Sudan, spectacular mountains in northern Ethiopia, then the toughest day of all, driving over the volcanic lava rocks of the great desert of Northern Kenya.

 After that, muddy jungle trails through Tanzania and Zambia bring survivors to the Victoria Falls at Livingstone, and onto the long graded-gravel trails of the world's oldest desert through Namibia, finishing up with a sting-in-the-tail blast through the Cederbourg Mountains of South Africa, before sampling the beers in the long mahogany bar of the Table Bay Mountain of Cape Town.

 "This has without doubt been the hardest event we have ever organised," says Rally chairman Philip Young. "It's been a roller-coaster ride of highs and lows, but the starter's flag can now come out of the broom-cupboard."

 See the cars on 1 January: cars are scrutineered and on show all day at Brooklands on New Year's Day, then drive up to Westminster, where a special supper has been organised at the end of Downing Street - Prime Minister David Cameron has been asked by the Minister of Culture, Ed Vaizey to fly a chequered flag from the roof of 10 Downing Street - and the cars are lined up and flagged away from the House of Lords, with the spectacular backdrop of the Houses of Parliament, as Big Ben strikes 7pm.

 Cars are then on their way to Dover, with a hard night ahead, with timed sections set in Kent's North Downs.

Results will be up on the event's website at londoncapetownrally.com