WHAT: The Mongol Rally
In 2001, two English friends decided it was high time for an expedition into the unknown. With limited budgets, a burning wanderlust, and a battered Fiat 126, they agreed that Mongolia’s stunning scenery and godawful roads made for the perfect driving adventure. They set out on the 10,000-mile route with no change of clothes, a hunting knife, some cheap cigars, and a full gas tank. Ultimately, visa and border issues hampered their plans to make it to Mongolia. However, they had such a blast simply attempting the ludicrous trip, they swore they’d try again. Thus was born “The Mongol Rally,” organized by the Adventurists.
An Intercontinental Banger Rally
Twenty years later, the Mongol Rally, AKA, the “Greatest driving adventure on the Planet,” is as ludicrous as ever. The Rally kicks off when adventure-hungry travel and party enthusiasts start their clunky engines at the UK’s Goodwood race circuit. From there, the Mongol Rally route consists of 10,000 miles of wacky races-style mayhem, in cars fit for the scrapyard, via roads that range from good to non-existent, all the way to Ulan Ude in Eastern Siberia.
Anything Goes (Almost)
Unlike the Paris Dakar, where the world’s best drivers hurtle along in corporate-sponsored, team-supported monster trucks, the Adventurists’ Mongol Rally is, by design, the exact opposite. Anyone can join, support teams are banned, and vehicles must be no more than 1000cc. There’s no backup, no rule book, no pit stops, checkpoints, or fancy accommodations. Even if you make the finish line (by no means guaranteed), there are no prizes. It’s just you and your buddies, on your own, piloting your rolling rubbish dump through mountains, plains, and deserts. In fact, the Mongol Rally route could not be simpler because there isn’t one. There’s a start point, a finish point, and everything in between, all of which is up to you.
The Mongol Rally has only three rules:
- Teams are unsupported.
- Entrants are required to raise at least £1000 for charity.
- Vehicles must have a 1000cc engine limit. Motorcycles or scooters must be a minimum of 125cc.
If you can satisfy these requirements, go online and fill out the application on the Adventurists Mongol Rally webpage.
You’re On Your Own
When the race gets underway, bear in mind that The Mongol Rally is a true driving adventure. Other than your teammates, you’re well and truly on your own. If you break down in the middle of the Gobi desert, you either fix it, buy a horse, or start hiking. If you’re up sh#t creek with no paddle, make one. No one will tell you how to drive, where to stop, where to stay or visit, or what to do. “Our only job,” say the organizers, “is to tell you where the finish line is and wait for you to turn up a battered but better person.”
If a movable feast of rolling anarchy sounds like a dream come true, then Mongol Rally will welcome your application. However, don’t let excitement cloud certain practicalities. If you show up on the Pakistan border without a visa, telling the authorities their decision to deny you entry ‘goes against the spirit of the race’ probably won’t hold much water. You should handle visas and documents for certain countries in advance.
The Mongol Rally route begins in Goodwood race track in the UK. The finish line is Ulan Ude in Siberia. The first and only official stop is Prague. On arrival, entrants meet, party, and then set out.
Typically, teams head for Istanbul, Moscow, or Kyiv. The more adventurous have traveled as far south as Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan and as far north as the Arctic Circle. Depending on your route, the total distance is between eight to ten thousand miles. Most teams complete the Mongol Rally in under a month. The current record for the most countries visited in The Mongol Rally stands at 41, set in 2018 by an Australian team, Destined to Flail.
The Mongol Rally organizers make clear that racing on highways is illegal. However, car accidents become more frequent as the Rally grows in popularity. Although uncommon, deaths on the Mongol Rally have occurred. In 2010, a British driver was killed and his teammate hospitalized after crashing near the border of Iran and Turkmenistan. Even the safer routes can land you in some pretty dodgy places.
- A launch party, a European pit-stop party, an all-time finish party, and plenty of other fiestas along the way.
- Raise money for charity.
- More potential passport stamps than many see in a lifetime.
- If you’re hungry for more mayhem from the Adventurists, then check out the infamous Rickshaw Run.