The Mongol Rally is a car rally that begins in Europe and ends in Ulan Bator, Mongolia. The principle launch is from London, United Kingdom, with subsidiary starting points in other European countries. It is one of 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.
There are an infinite array of possible routes that teams may take. Participants then generally proceed to a launch party in Prague where they converge with teams from the other starting points in Italy and Spain. 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. Depending on the route taken the total distance driven is around eight to ten thousand miles (almost a third of the way around the earth) and most teams complete the rally within four to five weeks.
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 2007 rally left Hyde Park, London, on the 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 being allocated in 22 seconds. Due to this popularity, the final 50 places were awarded on the result of a ballot.
The main, British starting point moved from Hyde Park, London, to Goodwood in Sussex for the 2009 and 2010 event.
Early history of the Mongol Rally
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.