The Mongol Rally is a car rally that begins in Europe and ends in Ulan Bator, Mongolia. The principal launch is from Goodwood Circuit, United Kingdom, with subsidiary starting points in other European countries. It is described as the "greatest adventure in the world". Whilst originally the rally required competing vehicles to have an engine displacement of less than 1,000cc, this has been increased to 1,200 cc to reflect the increasing difficulty of obtaining a car since the Mongolian government stipulated that all competing vehicles must be less than 10 years old.
The rally is designed to be an adventure for the participants, and not a traditional rally/race. The organisers ("The Adventurists") are careful to point out that racing on highways is illegal, and that no recognition is given to the first finisher. There are other differences from mainstream rallies, particularly the fact that no support team is provided and no other arrangements are made such as for accommodation. Indeed, the diminutive vehicles are deliberately inappropriate for the task, in the adventurous spirit of the rally.
The inaugural rally took place in 2004, in which 6 teams started and 4 completed the course. The second rally, in 2005, was entered by 43 teams, and 18 automobiles arrived intact in Ulan Bator. The 2006 Rally began on July 22 with 167 cars setting off. 117 teams made it to Ulan Bator.
The Mongol Rally was run as a charity event from 2004 to 2006 with all of the proceeds from the entry fees used to organise the event with the remaining donated to charity. This changed from 2007 as the event is now organised by the League of Adventurists International Ltd, a privately owned profit making UK company. However, the participants continue to raise money for charities through sponsorship and the eventual auction of their cars.
The 2007 rally left Hyde Park, London, on 21 July and was limited to 200 teams. Registration for 2007 was far more popular than the organisers could have foreseen, with the first 100 places allocated in 22 seconds. Due to this popularity, the final 50 places were awarded on the result of a ballot. In 2007, places were awarded for 2008 in two sign ups with places assigned on 1 November and 7 November. The entry fee was £650 per team. The main British starting point moved from Hyde Park, London, to Goodwood in West Sussex for the 2009 event. Cars lapped the circuit in procession before departing.
There are an array of suggested routes that teams may take. After setting off from Goodwood or one of the other Western European start points (including France, Italy, and Spain), participants then generally proceed to a launch party in Prague where they converge. Typical routes then head for Moscow, Kiev or Istanbul, though teams have travelled as far north as the Arctic Circle and as far south as Iran, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan. Teams taking the Ukraine/Russia route or the more southerly Turkey and Iran route often converge at Samarkand, Uzbekistan before proceeding north-east for Mongolia.
The final leg of the rally takes surviving vehicles into Mongolia and on to finish in the capital, Ulan Bator. None of the available routes are comfortable or safe: damage to cars, robberies and minor injuries are common. Year on year as the rally gains popularity, more and more car accidents occur and many participants require hospital treatment. On 6 August 2010, two British participants died and one other team mate was seriously hurt after a road accident in Iran (near the border between Iran and Turkmenistan).
Depending on the route taken, the total distance driven is around eight to ten thousand miles (approximately thirteen to sixteen kilometres) and most teams complete the rally within three to four weeks.
Participating automobiles are allowed to have an engine displacement of no greater than 1200 cc, although this may be exceeded within reason in exchange for an increased amount of fundraising for charity. Motorbikes with an engine displacement of 125 cc or less are also permitted. Exceptions to this rule "may be considered for vehicles of notable unusualness with high comedy value" and have also been made for vehicles which will be of particular use to Mongolian charities — such as ambulances and fire engines. The Rally's rules have traditionally stipulated that a participating car must "generally be considered to be crap." The choice of vehicles, therefore, is limited to those apparently unsuited to rallying. Seemingly unlikely cars such as the Citroën 2CV, and Fiat 126 were common until the 2009 change instigated by the Mongolian government which calls for cars under ten years old; now the Škoda Felicia and Nissan Micra are amongst the common entrants. Unlikely vehicles that have participated in the rally have included a Bedford Rascal motorhome, an Austin Mini, a Fiat Multipla, a Daihatsu HiJets, a Morris Minor Traveller and saloon, a Ford Granada hearse and a London Taxi. The best vehicles for the event are low-tech and can be easily fixed by the roadside.
Some of the cars do not make it to Mongolia; they are sold when they break down, or are left behind due to time pressure. They may not be simply abandoned without the participants responsible losing a deposit lodged with the organisers. Previous rally vehicles can now be found operating throughout Central Asia thanks to enterprising local mechanics who have repaired abandoned vehicles.
The organisers make arrangements for the cars to be imported into Mongolia without import duties. From 2004-06 they made use of a standard procedure used by non-profit making organisations, charities, and non-governmental organisations in Mongolia that provides exemption from the most significant taxes levied on older vehicles. Under Mongolian law the importing organisation in Mongolia is then prevented from selling the vehicle for 3 years. Since 2007 the organisers have had a special agreement with the Mongolian government. The cars will be auctioned and the money raised donated to a project as chosen by the drivers of each car.
There are many organisations in Mongolia who are grateful for the vehicles; furthermore, the low cost of labour in Mongolia makes it economical to repair and run old cars that would be scrapped in Europe. Nevertheless, due to the concerns, the organisers of the Rally stipulated in the contract with teams in 2006 that they should not remove components from the car, such as the rear seats, to ensure that the vehicles remain useful and achieve a reasonable return at auction.
The 2013 entry fee is set at £980 per team. There is no limit to how many can join a team. The fee includes tickets to the "Festival of Slow", which takes place in both the U.K and the Czech Republic. It also covers the price for the Import Admin and other facilities offered by the organisers.
History of the fee
In 2004 there was no entry fee, although the 6 teams had to raise a minimum of £500 each, to be paid directly to that year's rally charity Send a Cow. In 2005, an entry fee of £50 per person was paid to the organisers to cover the expenses of the rally. Teams were also required to raise a minimum charity donation of £1000 per team split equally and paid directly to the chosen Charities Send a Cow and Save the Children. In 2006, the entry fee payable to the organisers was increased to £227. Teams were required to raise a minimum of £1000 per team: £250 payable to Send a Cow with the remaining £750 payable to either Mercy Corps, CAMDA, Wild Cru or the Christina Noble Children's Foundation. In 2006, the teams taking part in the Rally together raised in excess of £200,000 for the Rally charities.
The 2009 entry fee was set at £650, with an additional minimum charity donation set at £1000 per vehicle and a vehicle deposit of £500, repayable providing the vehicle is not dumped anywhere en route."
Sponsorship and TV coverage
On the 2006 rally a number of TV crews accompanied teams along the route. The 2006 event was also sponsored by .travel with the sponsorship money going towards the cost of organising the event. The Expedia Let Yourself Go Team were also featured on the Expedia website. The Mongolian Taxi Service team appeared on the Fifth Gear motoring program as part of a feature on the toughness of the Daihatsu Charade, inspired by their own Charade completing the rally entirely unscathed.
Jack Osbourne, son of Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne, took part in the 2007 rally with Amaryllis Knight, the daughter of the former editor of The Economist and News Corporation director Andrew Knight, in a 1991 750cc Fiat Panda; their journey was aired on a television show named "Jack Osbourne, Mongol Rally".
In 2009, rallier Joe Sabia created Tupac in Kazakhstan, which pieced together dozens of Kazakhs to sing Changes by Tupac Shakur. The video is the most widely watched Mongol Rally video with over a million views (June 2013).
|“||In 2001 Mr Tom and Mr Joolz found themselves staring in awe at their slightly dishevelled Fiat 126 wondering what to do with it. After not very long they came up with the only sensible plan - to drive to the most ridiculous place they could think of. Mongolia was chosen, being 10 000 miles away as the drunk crow flies and sporting a fine selection of the world's worst roads it seemed perfect. So with no changes of clothes, a packet of cheap cigars and a hunting knife, they set forth. Although they didn't quite reach Mongolia because of visa and border trouble they enjoyed themselves so much that they swore to return and try again. From this premise the great Mongol Rally was born.||”|
The idea later formed part of Tom Morgan's BA degree in Sculpture and was displayed at the Winchester School of Art BA Degree Show in 2003.
The rally website warns against the risks of this kind of adventure. An undisclosed number of racers have been injured since 2004. In 2010 an adventurer was killed and two injured in an accident while crossing Iran.
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