|Budapest-Bamako: Biggest licence-free African Adventure set off in January.|
Budapest's new mayor, Istvan Tarlos gave his seal of approval to the 6th Budapest-Bamako. The wacky Europe to Africa, trans-Saharan car rally will depart from Budapest's spectacular Heroes' Square on January 15th, 2011.
"We are delighted that the newly elected leadership of the city supports the rally, that brings important tourism revenues to Budapest", said the founder of the event Mr. Andrew G. Szabo.
Over 400 participants from 35 different countries are expected to line up at the start ceremony. The rally's motto "Anyone. By Anything. By Any Means." has attracted a larger number of "unusual" participants than in previous years.
Among the unlikely vehicles will be a 30 year old Zastava, a rare Yugoslavian mini car, an award winning "rat look" Polski Fiat, an East German Trabant completely covered with grass, a classic Baja Beetle from Hawaii, a vintage Cadillac hearse, a 3 person hovercraft that will compete some of the coastal stages entirely on water, handful of ambulances and a retired Norwegian fire truck.
These public service vehicles will be donated to communities in Mali at the end of the rally. "Teams driving funny vehicles or cars that will be donated to charity can enter the rally free of charge", added Mr. Szabo, who will complete the 9000 kilometer drive aboard a Mercedes ambulance.
The emergency rescue vehicle was a gift from the Hungarian NGO, Charity March, which specializes in refurbishing ambulances and sending them to Africa. Mr. Szabo's ambulance will finish the race 60kms south of Timbuktu, where it'll be donated to a group of villages.
This April the self proclaimed world's shortest man, 65 centimeter tall, Hungarian circus artist, "Pityu" entered the rally in the competitive category. Pityu also holds a Guiness record in long distance endurance driving. Last year he drove for 38 hours on a closed track in front of Guiness inspectors non-stop. He was allowed to take one 10 minute break every 8 hours.
Pityu is set to compete driving a specially modified Mercedes 220. The seat has been enhanced and the pedals have been extended. "Our goal is not to win the race, but to finish it in one piece and spread cheers in Africa's poorest communities.", said the 38 year old knife thrower. Pityu and his co-driver, a 130 centimeter tall Romanian clown are expected to put on impromptu circus shows in Africa.
The recon mission for the rally ended in late November. Writing the race track for the two week rally took over 24 days. The track writing team was headed by the 2010 Budapest-Bamako champion Laszlo Tempfli. "I wanted to create fast and scenic stages that could be completed with minimal damage to the vehicles", said Mr. Tempfli. Last year's Budapest-Bamako took a heavy toll on the cars on the mountainous rocky terrain of Morocco.
After a 3 day European super marathon the rally will cross the Atlas mountains, the Jebel Sarhro on narrow mountain pistes. The race will continue on old Dakar tracks from Ourzazate down to Western Sahara.
Teams will have to tackle nervewrecking sand dunes in Mauritania before arriving in Senegal, where classic African red clay roads and savannah driving will await the participants.
Teams will spend their first night around the Pink Lake (Lac Rose) that had traditionally been the finish line of the Dakar Rally. From here they'll drive through the Nikolo Koba National Park where they will have to navigate through hordes of mischievous monkeys before reaching Mali.
Because of security concerns in Mauritania the rally will spend only two and a half days in the North African country.
"We regularly monitor the security developments in Mauritania and are in constant contact with the authorities. We're happy to note that there has been no kidnappings this year and the authorities seem much more in control of the Al Qaida situation", added Mr. Szabo.
The Mauritanian army has once again reassured the organizers of their support and cooperation. The teams will be guarded by armed tactical vehicles and military aircrafts. "Our guests and the rally's security is a top priority of our government", said Mr. Idoumou Abderhaman, president of the Mauritanian Travel Association. The Budapest-Bamako makes up 5-8% of Mauritania's annual tourism.
The Budapest-Bamako is not a timed rally. It's a point race where teams collect points for completing daily off-road stages and completing geo-caching navigational tasks along the route. Getting lost, not arriving on time or missing the navigational waypoints reduces one's chances for winning.
The recon mission had its share of navigational mishaps especially in Senegal. The dirt paths connecting Mali to Senegal have been covered by thick foliage since a paved road was completed. Mr. Tempfli's team spent two days cutting the bush and got stuck in a swamp for an overnight before they got rescued by local villagers.
"We decided to change the original plan and not send teams into a certain disaster", said Mr. Tempfli. The Niokolo Koba - Keneiba stage will be changed to Nikolo Koba - Kayes. Teams will enter Mali on a paved liason section.
In the competitive category 3 time Budapest-Bamako winners Juraj Ulrich and Daniela Ulrichova will be at the start line and so will Bencze Bozsoki winner of the 2010 Hungarian Adventure Rally Championship, 4th placed at the Bamako in 2009. The 2009 and 2010 champions of the Budapest-Bamako will serve as referees this year.
Organizers are also placing strong emphasis on charity. In addition to an 18 wheeler truck carrying close to half a million Euro's worth of donations, teams will have to perform their own charity projects in Africa.
The Norwegian Bamako team has already raised money to build two additional class rooms to a local school that they built last year in Mali. The Bamako Flying Circus team is digging a well in Diema in Northern Mali and several other teams are providing equipment for a new computer training center, that will teach impoverished youth computing skills to land jobs.
In its 6th year, the Budapest-Bamako is now the largest amateur rally and the largest trans-Saharan rally. This year's race will cover 8,404 kilometers from the Hungarian capital Budapest to Bamako in Mali.
2010/12/14 | 14:17 CET | ARTICLE: MR/HS/SZABO