«What happens to you between the start the deserts, mountains, bandits and wilderness is anyone's guess. In a normal year just over half the teams make the finish line in one piece. If nothing goes wrong, then everything has gone wrong».
This is how the official website of the Mongol Rally (mongolrally.theadventurists.com), the world’s craziest event, welcomes visitors. This adventure starts from England, Spain and Italy and it takes between 8 and 20,000 km to reach Ulaan Baatar, the capital of Mongolia.
You can choose any route, either passing by the Arctic Circle or crossing Afghanistan. Your sense of adventure and recklessness are the only limit.
That's right; the Mongol Rally is certainly not the place for those who want to play it safe. Imagine travelling through the endless desert in Kazakhstan on an old car with minimal displacement and no support crew, with the GPS indicating that you're in the middle of nowhere and under the threat of getting robbed or abducted by unscrupulous raiders. If all this sounds intriguing, the Mongol Rally is for you.
This crazy adventure started back in 2001 when 2 English guys thought to use their summer holidays to reach Mongolia from London on an old Fiat 126. Of course, they never got there, also for visa and permit problems, but it was so fun that they decided to try again the following year and this time organising themselves. This is how the Mongol Rally all started.
The craziest race in the world does not award any prize, only heavy doses of adrenalin, adventure and experience. Year after year, the Mongol Rally has become increasingly popular and the number of teams taking part larger, as well as the funds raised for charity, which is the main purpose of the event.
Step 1: The rules
The official rules consist of four points: 3 rules and a warning, which discourage not only anyone who thinks this is not a normal trip, but also anyone with a little common sense.
Rule 1: You are on your own. You are entirely responsible for yourself. If anything goes wrong or you find yourself in a pickle, you have got to pull yourself out of it on your own. Nobody will help you. Upon signing up, you will have to sign an agreement in which you state that you are aware of all the risks this adventure entails and of the fact that you are alone, and that you can't sue the organisers if something goes wrong.
Rule 2: Charity. The teams signing up the Mongol Rally raise funds for charity. To be part of the event, you and your team must raise at least 1000 pounds.
Rule 3: The vehicle The vehicle you use must be small, must have a maximum displacement of 1200cc and must be less than 10 years old. The only exceptions are for emergency vehicles and undersized vehicles.
Warning: This adventure is really dangerous. Even if the website describes it in a light-hearted manner, the risks involved in this adventure must by no means be underestimated. The risks are truly high and some past teams have been seriously injured. Remember, you are alone in this extremely risky adventure.
Step 2: The vehicles
At the end of the adventure, all vehicles taking part in the Mongol Rally are donated to the Adventures for Development association, which resells them and donates the proceeds to NGOs.
The Mongol Rally is all about adventure, so there would be no point in reaching the destination in a full optional off-road vehicle. This is why only cars with less than 1000cc of umph (1200cc can be accepted but any vehicle with over 1200cc will be fined £100 for every cc above the limit). For two-wheel vehicles the limit is set to 125 cc.
Vehicles must be less than 10 years old and you shouldn't make modifications that reduce their value.
All these rules do not apply to special vehicles, ambulances, police cars or vans, fire engines and other public service vehicles. This is because these vehicles are very useful for the Mongolian people.
Step 3: The charity
As we have described from the start, the main purpose of the Mongol Rally is raising funds for charity. Every team must raise a minimum of £1000 to be donated to the CNCF (Christina Noble Children’s Foundation, CESVI e MERCY CORPS).
Every team can raise this sum through donations and sponsors (the list of sponsors must be approved by the organisers). Once the minimum sum has been raised, any other donation can be made to one of the registered charities of the team's choice.
Every donation is made through the on-line system chosen by the institution in order to make sure that the funds go directly to the charities. Every transaction is accurately documented.
By Fabrizio Buceti