World's largest amateur car rally wraps up in Sierra Leone
The 13th edition of world’s largest amateur car rally wrapped-up in Freetown on Sunday. The Budapest to Bamako race saw 700 participants make their way through four European and four African countries before arriving to Sierra Leone's capital.
The rally is not celebrated for its speed but rather for its endurance and navigation of remote areas, and ultimately its charity that helps raise money for West Africa.
They drove into town on a quiet Sunday morning; their vehicles and bikes covered in dust after a gruelling 8,063km journey dubbed ‘The World’s Last Great Adventure’.
They had just covered the last 83 km in the Budapest - Bamako rally to reach the finish line at the National Stadium in Freetown, Sierra Leone on 16 February.
Four European countries
The rally began back in the Hungarian capital, Budapest on 31 January. Its 700 participants travelled through four European countries (Hungary, Slovenia, France, and Spain) and through four African countries (Morocco, Mauritania, Senegal, Guinea – Conakry) before entering Sierra Leone.
“It is a very difficult rally, it is a challenging rally, it’s not a timed event, it is [a] navigational and endurance event; you have to take care of your car for two weeks and you just have to make the best of your team and just try to deal with whatever conditions come your way,” said Andrew Szabo, the Hungarian-born founder of the Budapest-Bamako rally.
Szabo has been organising rallies for 15 years.
“This rally is all about going on an incredibly long adventure and a long drive where every day is different. You go through the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, where you cut through the Sahara, where you cut through the sand dunes of Mauritania, get through the Sahel belt of Senegal, head down to Guinea and finally arrive here to the tropical [and] beautiful beaches of Sierra Leone,” he said.
Adventure and charity
For most of the rally members, the rally is about adventure and charity.
“We just [came] up with this idea that we should participate in the next Budapest Bamako Rally,” recounted Szaboccs Safian, also known as Safi, who calls himself the ‘butterfly man’ and is a member of team 161.
Safi and his team members decided to participate because “it [would] be fun basically to drive all the way from Europe down to Africa where we actually work a lot … we really enjoy staying here but [this] would be a new experience for all of us to come together.”
Driven to race
“Yes we are actually supporting a charity you know because with the Gola Forest there are a lot of fring[e] communities and some of the communities formed together a kind of educational programme,” added Safi when explaining what else drove them to participate in this year’s rally.
The organisation they support is called EduKids, which is run by an international board he explained.
While the charity is unable to save the forest directly, the idea is to educate future generations “so they will understand why conservation and bio-diversity is also important.”
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