Once a year, a group of old cars set off from Devon in England on the Plymouth -Dakar rally. It was the idea of Julian Nowill who wanted to set up a long-distance rally for people on a budget. It’s cheap, cheerful and fun, and it’s taking the mickey out of the Paris-Dakar rally is very expensive, with specially-built vehicles, sponsors and television crews. I wanted to show that you can do the same things with no preparation, money, driving skills, navigation systems or back-ups, said Nowill.
The first rally was in December 2022 - january 2003, and although only 45 cars took part, it was a great success. By 2005, there were more than 500 teams. It is open to everyone, with teams coming from all over the world.
The teams get sponsorship from charities and businesses. They collect money for charity and keep their supporters up to-date on their websites. They find cars in all sorts of placet, includine farmyards and back gardens. Among the vehicles there have been a 28-year-old ice-cream van and a London taxi. The team names are very imaginative, includine Rustbuckets and Milk Sheilkhs.
There are some simple rules. The car must cost less than £100, and preparation expenses are limited to £15. Once the team starts off, no outside support, official helpers, mechanics or back-up trucks are allowed – the participants are on their own. And at the end of the rally, the team must auction off the cars and equipment, and give the proceeds to charities in Gambia. Unlike the “real rally”, they give something back to the countries they visit.
Over three weeks, the teams drive 6000 kilometres through seven countries. The route starts in Plymouth, England, and goes through France, Spain, Gibraltar, Morocco, the Sahara and Senegal, ending up in Gambia. The route is challenging, going across deserts and national borders, and sometimes there is a risk of landmines. And of course, with such old cars, the teams have to be good at repairing them when they break down!