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Four geared up for a Mongolia mission
AT this time of year people are busy planning their summer getaway.
And it is the same for Dorchester friends Tom Thornycroft, Chris King, Lee Goddard and Paul Reis.
But they are not thinking of hitting the beaches and nightclubs of Spain, Portugal or Greece.
The four men are preparing to drive two Suzuki Altos 10,000 miles all the way to Ulaanbaatar, the capital city of Mongolia.
Led by warehouse shift manager Thornycroft, the quartet of 28-year-olds have an epic journey in front of them as they take part in the 2013 Mongol Rally.
Starting out at Woburn Safari Park near London on July 6, the team will travel through approximately 18 countries but there is no set route, no support cars and no help coming for you if things do not go to plan.
So not only will the men have to deal with some less than ideal road conditions, they face the potential lottery of border controls and driving through particularly hostile environments.
“We’re all working hard to get it off the ground,” said Thornycroft. “The closer it gets the more excited I get. I can’t wait.”
Thornycroft and his team decided to take up the challenge after an accident left a friend with severe spinal cord injuries and paralysed from the neck down.
For that reason they are raising funds for Spinal Research and the Dorset & Somerset Air Ambulance, and have a charity ball planned for Athlehampton House in February.
To show that they are not taking themselves too seriously, there will also be a ‘breakdown roulette’ where people can pick a 100-mile stretch of road they think might be the team’s undoing.
“We didn’t have a huge budget and the cars we bought had problems so one of the first jobs was getting them back on the road,” added Thornycroft.
“We’ve had to weld some sheet metal to the bottom of each car to protect them because from Kazakhstan onwards there are no roads, just tracks.
“We will probably come up against some awkward situations and because we all have jobs we are giving ourselves a month to do it.
“We’re looking at 300-400 miles a day so if we’re not in Ulaanbaatar in a month then we’ve got problems.
“The border guards out that way can be troublesome but the one thing we’re really concerned about at the moment is the section between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea.
“We are contemplating taking a freight ferry from Azerbaijan to Turkmenistan across the Caspian Sea which would take us away from Iran.
“Also, if we have a problem with the cars it’s up to us to get it fixed. Once you leave the start you’re on your own.
“If one car has something wrong with it, which can’t be repaired, then there will have to be four grown men in a Suzuki Alto, which wouldn’t be ideal.”
After negotiating the Channel the team will head South East through Europe before crossing into Turkey via Romania and Bulgaria.
They will then go through Azerbaijan and Iran before swinging North East through Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan before heading onto the Mongolian Steppe via Russia.
“There was a mixed reaction from our families when they heard we were doing it,” said Thornycroft. “My mother thought we were insane.”
The rally is run by UK charity Go Help and proceeds will assist their community projects in Mongolia as well as the country’s first ambulance service.
It also provides a rare source of vehicles and spare parts to isolated Mongolian farmers and has so far supplied more than 300 much-needed cars, vans and other means of transport while raising an additional £2 million for charity.