Autumn is just beginning to take on a chill, but two West Chester University alumni are already making plans for next year – a plan which involves driving across eight- to 10-thousand miles of country in an ambulance for charity and adventure.Stephen Blahut and Chris Plough are teaming up for the 2010 Mongol Rally, a race across the European and Asian continents set up by a UK-based company called the Adventurists.
Though the main goal of the Rally is to delve into the unknown and race from point A to point B, teams also raise money for different charities throughout their adventures.
Blahut and Plough have named their team OZNOG Racing, presented through their production company, ThruVegas Media.
The pair hope to add up to two more members to their team before their departure from London on Sept. 2.
Though the 2010 Mongol Rally will start from three different countries – England, Spain and Italy – there are only 400 teams allowed for the entire race. According to Blahut, the event sold out in two minutes.
The ultimate goal of the Rally is to finish in the Mongolian capital, Ulaan Baatar, which is estimated to take about four weeks of traveling from any of the three start points.
However, teams in the past have deviated from the shorter routes and traveled “as far north as the Arctic Circle and as far south as Afghanistan,” as the site says.
Even though the length and climate of the journey seems daunting enough, the Adventurists place a few more restrictions on what teams can use throughout the race.
Each team is required to use a car that is less than 10 years old and has an engine size of one liter or less (about 1.06 quarts, or 34 fluid oz.).
The exception to these rules is if the team uses an emergency or public service vehicle. This includes police cars, fire engines, road sweepers, cherry pickers and, to the interest of OZNOG racing, ambulances.
“We like the absurdity of driving one that distance and knowing full well that the vehicle will be decorated in such a fashion that people will not help but stare,” Blahut said.
“There will have to be some welding done as protection to the undercarriage otherwise our vehicle will be destroyed on the Mongol Roads where over a third of the vehicles perish on the trip.”
Another rule for the Mongol Rally is that each team must raise at least 1,000 ($1,490.75) for official rally charities.
Blahut and Plough have picked three charities: Mercy Corps, Save the Children and Project Night Night. The pair wanted to pick charities that would benefit children’s education and physical and mental health.
While on the race, teams are encouraged to record their journey. Blahut and Plough plan to make their experience a “social experiment,” blogging and providing fans with ways to participate with them before the Rally takes place as well as during.
“It is really important for us to be in contact with those whom support us along the way,” said Blahut.
“In addition we will also have a GPS in our vehicle that will allow fans to follow the journey as our vehicle progresses online. We will also be updating our journey on Twitter each day.”
The Mongol Rally website makes it clear that this race is highly dangerous. Under a section titled “The Warning,” the site states:
” . . . You cannot underestimate the risks involved in undertaking this kind of adventure. Your chance of dying can be very high, some past teams have been seriously injured . . . You really are on your own. If it all goes wrong, that’s it, tough.”
A similar warning is veiled in the “Route” section of the site:
“What happens to you between the start, the deserts, mountains, bandits and wilderness is anyone’s guess. In a normal year just over half the teams make the finish line in one piece.”
Despite the possible danger and hardship, Blahut and Plough are determined and excited for this opportunity.
“How often can you travel the world doing something absolutely crazy,” said Blahut. “It’s one of those things you will remember forever, seize the moment.”
Plough agrees: “I have always struggled with finding the grand adventure of our generation, a real exploration into the unknown. This is an opportunity to travel to new places by means I have never imagined.”
Tara Tanzos is a third-year student majoring in English. She can be reached at TT649875@wcupa.edu.