Prince Albert starts Tallinn-Monte Carlo

Tallinn - Monaco's Prince Albert II was in the Estonian capital Tallinn Thursday to re-launch the Tallinn-Monte Carlo rally cut short by World War II, giving it an eco-friendly twist as a race for electric cars only.

"We are going to see impressive changes in coming years in car industry and electronic cars market and our rally that is going to be an annual event again will be part of promoting the electric cars worldwide," Prince Albert said, sitting in a hefty 1958 Soviet-built Pobeda gas-guzzler re-fitted with a new electric motor.

The prince then waved the flag signalling the start of the event which runs through to June 11 and will see competitors travel through Estonia, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and finally to the finish-line in Monaco.

The 16 electric cars that started the race on Thursday in Tallinn will travel a total of 3 500km. The first Tallinn-Monte Carlo rally was held in 1930 but was discontinued after the 1939 outbreak of the World War II.

"The aim of the electric race is to re-establish the tradition of the historic race between Tallinn and Monte Carlo, to promote environmentally friendly electric vehicles and connect northern and southern Europe with environmentally friendly roads covered with electric plugs for electric vehicles," Juri Tamm, Monaco's honorary consul in Tallin, told AFP.

On Thursday, Prince Albert also dedicated a park bench to his late mother American actress Grace Kelly close to Tallinn's historic old town centre.

A plaque on the bench was engraved with the Estonian poem "Do you know the mother's heart", written by Estonia's renowned poet Lydia Koidula (1843-1886).

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