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The Budapest-Bamako or Great African Run is now the largest amateur rally in the world, the largest rally across the Sahara  and an important charity car race in Africa. The Budapest-Bamako is a low-budget version  of the Dakar Rally and goes from Budapest, Hungary to Bamako, Mali through the Sahara. It passes through Hungary, Austria (or Slovenia), Italy, France, Spain, Morocco, Western Sahara, Mauritania and Mali. The Budapest-Bamako was inspired by the Paris Dakar Rally. It promises a sense of adventure and the romance of Africa, much like the Paris-Dakar did in its early days. There are no entry restrictions. As long as a vehicle is street legal, it can join the event. The B2 also raises money and supplies for local communities and charities in Mali.
The event is the brainchild of Hungarian internet entrepreneur and former radio "shock jock" Géza Villám (real name Andrew Szabo) who wanted to give rally fans an option to the more expensive and stricter Dakar rally. He found no cheaper and more comfortable alternative to the Dakar so he created his own. After first envisioning a direct drive through the Sahara in Tunisia, Libya, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Mali he opted for a safer and more scenic route around the Western rim of Africa.
On 26 December 2005, forty-two teams lined up in Budapest's Hősök tere for the inaugural run of the Budapest-Bamako. Two weeks later all but two teams arrived in Bamako's Place des Heroes (both meaning Heroes' Square in English). In 2007, over a hundred teams entered the race. Only ten of them did not cross the finish line.
In 2008, over 400 people in 160 vehicles entered the Great African Run. Among the more unusual vehicles were a 1961 Velorex, an Ikarus 435 articulated bus, an ice cream truck, a Dacia, a Wartburg and a Polish Fiat 126 driven by two Brits. The 2008 run started amid security fears a week after the cancellation of the Dakar Rally. Several French and Spanish teams dropped out of the Bamako citing fears of terror in Mauritania. The run was completed without a hitch. The Mauritanian government assigned thousands of military and police officers to guard the event.
The touring category was lighter and simpler than in previous years. Teams in the touring category enjoyed events like the Annual Star Wars Theme Party on Planet Tatooine in Morocco, the Tropic of Cancer Party or the B2 Big Beach Party in Mauritania on a virgin beach, that has been named B2 Beach.
In 2009, the racing and the touring categories were completely separated. The race featured a lot more demanding course. There were stricter time controls and more sophisticated geo-challenges.
In 2010 edition of the rally was directed by four time Budapest-Bamako veterans, Andras Polgar and his brother Tamas. Less than 36 hours before the start the Mauritanian and Mali stages got cancelled after the Hungarian Foreign Ministry warned the Polgars of potential terror threats in Mauritania. That year, the rally ended in Agadir. Despite the changes in the official finish line forty one teams and over 25 tons of aid arrived in Bamako without incident after on February 1, 2010.
After the disappointing 2010 run, the organization of the Budapest-Bamako reverted to the founder of the event with the promise of returning to Mali in 2011.
The 2011 rally ended successfully after teams completed one of the hardest editions of the rally. For the first time in its history the rally travelled through Senegal. Only 125 of the 160 teams finished and only 18 of the 40 race category teams crossed the finish line. 
Organizers moved the finish line to Guinea-Bissau after a politically uncertain year in Mali. Hungary's anti-terror agency urged organizers to cancel because of the threat of kidnappings. The 2013 rally ended without incident. Out of the 142 teams only 89 crossed the finish line.
Some teams continue traveling, independently, after reaching Bamako; either driving back to Europe, or to a port such as Dakar, or driving to other places in Africa.
Philosophy and rules
The guiding principle of the Budapest-Bamako is: Anyone, By Anything, In Any Way. There are no restrictions on the vehicles or individuals that can enter. There are no road restrictions either. Participants have to complete daily stages between Budapest and Bamako. There are no set routes. Racers can plan and optimize their own route. It is not a timed event. Points are awarded for completing daily stages in certain time periods. In addition there are geocaching challenges along the way for additional points. If a team doesn't complete a stage they are still in the race. Cars do not have to arrive at the finish line, just participants. Teams can participate in racing or touring categories.
Usually, the race goes through the following countries (in start-finish order):
- Austria or Slovenia
- Western Sahara
Teams can enter in the competitive category where navigational points need to be reached and daily stages completed. It is a point race and not a timed event. In touring category teams travel at their own pace and there is no competition. In 2011 the Spirit category was added where old cars and bangers are may enter without having to pay entry fees.
The Budapest–Bamako is primarily a charity event, that brings direct donations to communities in Mali and Mauritania. Many teams are delegated by firms as part of the corporate social responsibility program. In 2008, Budapest Bank donated an ambulance car after it was driven from Budapest to Bamako. The Bayer Red Cross donated a minivan for the Institute for the Blind in Bamako after it was driven from Europe.
- In 2005, money was raised for a Bamako orphanage.
- In 2007, participants adopted villages on route and delivered supplies to that community.
- In 2008, teams dug a well in the village of El Geddiya, donated medical equipment to a free clinic in a Bamako slum, including sterilization equipment and an incubator. Further educational gifts were given to schools in several Bamako districts.
- In 2009 over 700,000 Euros worth of aid was delivered to Africa. The British "Green Knights" brought solar panels and solar ovens to several Malian villages. A Dutch women's team delivered 230 bicycles to an organization called Women on Bikes. The NGO teaches women to ride bicycles so they can get jobs away from their villages.
- In 2010 over 25 tons of aid was delivered to Mauritania and Mali. Members of the Norwegian Bamako team built a school in a remote Malian village named Kourmikoro. Aid supported several villages, hospital, orphanages, schools and clinics in both Mauritania and Mali.
- In 2011 800,000 Euros worth of aid was delivered. A new building was added to the school built in 2010 and a new well was dug in Diema, Mali. Members of the JCI team delivered 10,000 malaria nets to Mali and Senegal.
- In 2012 600,000 Euros worth of aid was delivered. Several ambulances were donated to Guinea-Bissau. A new school wing was built in Kourmikoro, Mali. Donations also supported the village of Sincem Boce, Guinea-Bissau, the orphanage and hospital in Bissau.
- In 2013 800,000 Euros worth of aid was delivered. A Danish team donated a fully functional fire engine to the mayor of Guinea-Bissau. Solar powered vaccination storage systems, computers, sewing machines and bicycles were also donated in Mauritania, Senegal and Guinea Bissau.
The team that performs the most outstanding charity work receives the Mother Teresa Charity Award.
Since 2007 British cable and satellite broadcaster, Travel Channel airs the Budapest To Bamako series. Since 2008 the channel sends viewers to participate in the rally. In 2009 the series grew to five parts and followed the trials and tribulations of an all men and an all women team along the rally. In 2010 in Hungarian national broadcaster RTL Klub broadcast the event daily.
- [MarathonRally.com http://www.marathonrally.com/news/budapest_bamako_participants_gear_up_for_world_s_largest_amateur_rally.10898.0.html]
- [Budapest Times http://www.budapesttimes.hu/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=6161&Itemid=194]
- [Radio Praha http://www.radio.cz/cz/clanek/75511]
- [Caboodle.hu http://www.caboodle.hu/nc/news/news_archive/single_page/article/11/budapest_bam/?cHash=5074abfd7e]
- [USA TODAY http://content.usatoday.com/topics/photo/Agadir/06oE8WV9Gvf2S/1]
- [MTI (Hungarian News Agency) http://www.caboodle.hu/nc/news/news_archive/single_page/?tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=7389]
- [USA TODAY http://content.usatoday.com/topics/photo/Agadir/06oE8WV9Gvf2S/1]
- [Marathonrally.com http://www.marathonrally.com/news/budapest_bamako_waking_up_from_a_bad_dream_rally_will_return_in_2011.14928.0.html]
- [Marathonrally.com http://www.marathonrally.com/news/budapest_bamako_2011_sensational_finish_after_two_weeks_in_maili_africa.17759.0.html]
- [Marathonrally.com http://www.marathonrally.com/news/budapest_bamako_guinea_bissau_will_host_the_finish_line_of_the_2012_edition.18227.0.html]
- [Bloomberg.com http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-01-25/hungary-warns-of-terror-threat-on-budapest-bamako-race.html]
- [Travel Channel http://www.travelchannel.co.uk/series-info.asp?series=Budapest+To+Bamako+2009&ID=1254]
- [Newstrack India http://www.newstrackindia.com/newsdetails/2013/01/26/181--Budapest-Bamako-rally-off-to-a-shaky-start-.html]
- [TV South Africa http://www.tvsa.co.za/default.asp?blogname=travelchannel&ArticleID=7841]
- Budapest-Bamako Great African Run official website (English)
- Official Video Channel Of The Budapest-Bamako
- Article about the 2005 Run
- Budapest-Bamako Great African Run official live broadcasting
- Daily reports from the 2008 run
- Budapest-Bamako 2011 GPX files, maps and pictures.