The Mongol Rally is an endurance car rally (although not a race) that begins officially in Prague and finishes just above Mongolia in a small Russian town called Ulan Ude, covering around 10,000 miles (!) in the process. There's also the small detail that your car has to have less than a 1.2 litre engine. There are no team support vehicles and no set route, leaving the teams themselves solely responsible for making it to the finish line.
Why would you!? We caught up with not one, but two teams taking on this wacky race for CALM...
Team Boris Johnson's Foreign Correspondents
Hello lads! So, what on earth has gotten into you?
Myself and two friends from school have just graduated from university and wanted to do a big trip before starting work. I heard about this Rally 3 years ago and have been trying to convince people to do it with me ever since. We're driving a 1998 Suzuki Wagon R+ over 10,000 miles through Europe and Asia, the car is far from fit for the job but fits the required criteria of being less than a 1.2l engine and the general expectation of being a bit rubbish. It’s a great opportunity for us to have an amazing adventure and also raise money for some very good causes.
The car is far from fit for the job but fits the required criteria of being less than a 1.2l engine and the general expectation of being a bit rubbish.
How are you preparing for the challenge?
We are preparing for the challenge in a very professional manner, meeting up at the pub discussing issues for about 10 minutes then having a few beers and getting distracted. As well as this we have watched Top Gear since we were young and taken many tips from them.
We are preparing for the challenge in a very professional manner, meeting up at the pub discussing issues for about 10 minutes then having a few beers and getting distracted.
Anything you’re worried about?
We're mostly concerned about having to be the designated driver the day after a big event meaning having to stay sober the night before. As well as this, breaking down in the middle of nowhere and having no idea how to get going again is a big concern but hopefully we will convey with some teams who are more useful than ourselves!
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Team Dusty Martini
Hello lads! Nice wheels. Where are you excited to visit along the way?
Our route will pass through south-eastern Europe, before heading through Georgia, Turkmenistan, the Pamir Highway of Tajikistan and then onto Mongolia.
We have deciphered an incredibly scenic 10,000 mile intercontinental trip which passes through 20 countries, incorporating a huge amount of renowned sights to see along the way. In Europe, we plan on driving the Transfăgărășan road, made famous by Top Gear, and coined as the ‘greatest driving road in the world’.
Leaving Europe, we will visit the Darvaza Gas crater in Turkmenistan, more recently branded the “The Gates to Hell”.
Being classic car nerds, we're also excited for the Ural Ataman Classic Car Museum in Istanbul, which features a line-up of classics varying from 50’s American Muscle to quaint little Austin-Healey’s. Also in Turkey, we arrive in Cappadoccia just in time for the stunning hot air ballon festival, which will be a sight to behold if previous years are anything to go by. Leaving Europe, we will visit the Darvaza Gas crater in Turkmenistan, more recently branded the “The Gates to Hell”. Previously a gas mine, the crater was set alight in the 1970s, and was expected to have stopped burning by the end of the decade. It is, however, still burning, and is a fan-favourite with Mongol Rally teams.
Lastly, on the prerequisite we make it, the magnificent Mongolian Steppe - a vast and truly stunning expanse of nothingness, which for all the wrong reasons, seems an attractive prospect to us. So yeah, a pretty packed schedule on the sight seeing side of things.
How are you preparing for the challenge?
Archie has recently returned from Vietnam, where he became acquitted with the notion of improvised overnight stops courtesy of rural locals. Ned has been in London giving Martin (our car) some much-needed TLC, bolstered by his weekly mechanical training (for want of better terminology). Martin too has been getting suited and booted for his punt across two continents, and is now sporting a brand new set of Michelin tires and cosmetic upgrades.
Is there anything you’re worried about... break downs, flat tyre, one of you putting crap music on in the car?
Ha! Where to start? The obvious worry is breaking down in the middle of nowhere. We realise the cliché attached to such an expression, but we do feel it’s justified in this particular instance! We’ve tried to prep Martin as best we can mechanically, but we’d be naïve to think the diverse array of roads along our route will leave the car unscathed.
We’ve tried to prep Martin (the car) as best we can mechanically, but we’d be naïve to think the diverse array of roads along our route will leave the car unscathed.
Border crossings and visas are a very real concern. Our timings will need to be impeccable if we are to enter all of the varying countries where and when laid out on our itinerary. Turkmenistan is a fairly surreal dictatorship, and with that comes some pretty strict rules and regulations. It was announced a few months back that only white cars are permitted into Ashgabat, the country’s capital, which posed risks to a substantial number of rally teams. It has apparently transpired since that the ‘white cars only’ rule applies to Turkmenistan nationals only, but you never quite know these sorts of things until you arrive, it seems.
Fundamentally, we have university to return to a few weeks after we’re due to finish and a somewhat restrictive cash flow, so there doesn't appear to be a vast margin for error!
Music wise however, we’re quietly confident. Self proclaimed DJ-extraordinaire Ned has deep trust in his numerous Spotify playlists, while Archie is a very fine shmoozer and definitely won’t let conversation become dull should that ever become a threat.