|Budapest-Bamako: 2011 edition is set to start this Saturday in Budapest.|
"Pityu", the self proclaimed world's shortest man has been disqualified from competing as a driver on the Budapest-Bamako Rally. The 65 centimeter circus artist entered the trans-Saharan marathonrally earlier this year, but after a drunk driving incident his drivers' license had been revoked.
"We have zero tolerance for drunk driving and having a valid license is the only criteria to enter the Budapest-Bamako", said Andrew G. Szabo, founder of the amateur rally, which has attracted more than 400 participants from 35 countries. Pityu, the 38 year old Hungarian knife thrower and figure skater can still participate as a navigator.
Over 170 cars, motorcycles, trucks and a hovercraft will line up at Budapest's Hero's Square to kick off the the 9000 kilometer race to the capital of Mali. The annual caravan, whose motto has been "anyone, by anything, by any means" attracts wacky racers from all over the world.
Some 42 teams are in the competitive section of the rally racing against each other in an orienteering and endurance driving competition. To give all participants a level playing field the Budapest-Bamako is a point race, where teams collect points for finding geocaches and completing daily stages on time. "We didn't want to turn the rally into an arms race, where the team with the most expensive car wins".
Three time Budapest-Bamako winners, Juraj and Daniela Ulrichova from Slovakia will enter the race this year and many believe that they have the best chances for winning. Last year they had to give up the race after suffering spinal injuries in an accident in Morocco.
Formula 1 legend and marathon rally champion, Alastair Caldwell will join this year's event in his '85 Peugeot 205. Mr. Caldwell who has been Emerson Fittipaldi and Nelson Picque's technical manager also won first place in the 2003 London To Dakar rally. "I'm very keen on stretching my old driving legs and taking the old 'Puddle Jumper' on this race", said the 67 year old British business man referring to his vintage Peugeot, which may not be the most suitable vehicle for this gruelling desert race.
His is not the only unsuitable vehicle for the job. This year's line-up includes a '69 Cadillac hearse, a rat look Polski Fiat, a Trabant station wagon covered with grass, a Norwegian fire truck, a 68 VW Beetle, several ambulances, an ice cream truck and a hovercraft, which is expected to travel on both land and water.
In its 6th year the Budapest-Bamako is also the world's largest charity rally. Teams are encouraged to raise funds and collect direct donations for communities in Mali, Mauritania and Senegal. Last year the Norwegian Bamako team built a school in rural Mali. Returning this year, they will add two new class rooms.
Members of the international JCI team gathered 25,000 mosquito tents to save children's lives from Malaria while Pityu is expected to inaugurate a well in Diema, Mali that the rally paid for. Organizers are expecting over 600,000 Euros worth of direct aid to travel with the rally. "This is the true mission of the Budapest-Bamako, have fun while making the world a better place", added Mr. Szabo, 41 year old internet entrepreneur.
The race will begin with a car show in front of Budapest's Intercotinental Hotel on Thursday morning at 10AM. The race ceremony will take place at Heroes Square on Saturday, January 15th at 8:00AM. The rally will travel through Hungary, Slovenia, Italy, France, Spain, Morocco, Mauritania and Senegal before reaching the capital of Mali, Bamako on January 30th.
2011/01/13 | 17:35 CET | ARTICLE: MR/SY/BB