Mongol Rally

A History of the Adventurists

It turns out we’ve been at this for a while. It all started in 2003 with a plonker called Tom who was hell bent on launching the Mongol Rally in his spare time.

Having tried to drive to Mongolia in 2001 and failed miserably with university chum Joolz, Tom created a website and invited the world to join him for the 2004 Rally. It was all part of the grandiloquently named “Morgan Institute of Adventure Research”. This somewhat strangely formed the final show of his art degree. On the website alongside joining the Mongol Rally it suggested people set themselves on fire and other such life enhancing ideas.

From that stupidity has grown quite a beast. Now, at times, over 500 people work together to stage races and adventures all over the World. And we’ve only just begun…

Below is a potted history of some of the things we’ve done over the years…

Gaucho Derby

2020 – Gaucho Derby

The Gaucho Derby was launched in 2020 after a decade of turning the Mongol Derby into the biggest equine adventure race on the planet. This is the ultimate test of horsemanship and wilderness skills as, riders and their trusty steads set forth into the Patagonian wilderness over a 10 day race.

Riders change horse at regular intervals and a huge team of vets, race managers and medics flood the course to follow the race.

Monkey Run Morocco January 2020

2016 – Monkey Run

The Monkey Run takes the World’s greatest bi-wheeled children’s toy and pits it against all manner of stupid terrain.

It began in the deserts and mountains of Morocco but has now spread its tyres to the corners of the Earth. Romania and Scotland were excellent but currently on ice. Peru and Mongolia editions are still going strong. And there are a load more on the way.

Slow, uncomfortable and unreliable this minuscule beast really is the only way to take on the wilderness.

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2015 – Kraken Cup

Hitting the waves for the first time in 2015 the Kraken cup was a whole new form of ocean racing. Tiny dhow style boats off the coast of Tanzania designed for fishing while hugging the shore are repurposed for facing up to all the Indian Ocean can throw at you. Which turns out to be quite a lot. Teams of hardened sailors have been gathering from all over the world to take on one of the toughest races on the seas.

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2015 – Icarus Trophy

In the year of 2015 exploding into the skies came the Icarus Trophy. The first long distance cross country paramotoring race on planet Earth. Initially launching in the US of A the main Icarus race has also taken place in South Africa and Zimbabwe. Then a series of weekend long adventure races was launched called the X series act as a gateway drug to the main event. For those who don’t know it paramotoring is the most awesome of aerial sports. Relatively cheap to take part in and in most places very unregulated.

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2012 – Ice Run

Conceived in the winter of 2011 and birthed in 2012 the Ice Run pits the mighty vintage Ural motorbike against the frozen wilds of Siberia. Originally this adventuring beast set forth from the factory that made Urals in a town called Irbit just West of the Ural mountains. After a few years we decided to make the whole thing more stupid and dangerous so we moved the adventure to Lake Baikal, which usually freezes over in winter. This turned it into an epic stage for chaos. At the moment the Ice Run is paused. But she might return someday soon…

Mototaxi Junket

2009 – Mototaxi Junket

The Mototaxi Junket, apart from having a weird name pitted a weird vehicle against a large slab of South America. Mototaxis are basically underpowered motorbikes welded onto a sofa with wheels. Initially starting in Peru and heading all the way to Paraguay teams gathered in 2009 to tackle the beast. A beast that turned out to be a massive disaster. Everything seemed to be on track until a few days before the first edition was due to start. Honda cancelled our order for 63 Mototaxis that we’d paid for 6 months before. Then the only factory with enough mototaxis was in Iquitos, a city that can only be accessed by boat up the Amazon. Then the rainy season came early and a 2 day journey became a week of rafting. Then the truck that was supposed to bring them from the river to the launch snapped its axel in half. Then the bikes turned up as a bag of parts not complete machines. And then. And then… But we persevered. For a while. Like many of these things it was more expensive to run than we could charge people so we canned it.

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2009 – Mongol Derby

Ahh the Mongol Derby. We had no idea how big this would become. Or that we were inventing a new sport – ultra-endurance horse racing. Back in 2008 we started looking for a way to host a new horse racing adventure in Mongolia and Tom discovered from his friend Baigal about the history of Genghis Khan’s mighty postal system. Suddenly and without much consideration of how possible it was, the race was launched into the world. What was an extremely busy summer turned out to be the launch of the Guiness world record holding World’s longest horse race.

Each horse only covers 40km before it is replaced with a new one so while the riders get pounded the horses are always fresh. It takes about 1,500 horses and a team of 500 people to stage this epic race each year for just 40 riders.

Africa Rally

2008 – Africa Rally

Running just 3 times the Africa Rally was a southerly headed version of the Mongol Rally. Starting in London and ending in Cameroon it was a gigantic unruly slice of adventuring chaos.

We staged the first ever music festival of indigenous pigmy tribes from the rainforest. We were hauled in front of the head of counter terrorism in the Foreign Office in London to be told the baddies knew we were coming and our heads would be removed. It was not without its growing pains. So we paused the beast. Maybe one day we’ll dust off those sandy African shoes and see if she can rise again.

Ruta Del Sol

2008 – Ruta Del Sol

Born of a discussion in 2007 with 2 lively gents, one a Londoner and the other Ecuadorian the Ruta del Sol was brought into the world. Only to run once, it was a transcontinental dash across South America at its widest point in VW Beetles. It was predicted to take about 3 weeks but of the 6 teams that started only 1 made it in something more like 10 weeks. Hats off to Fabian, a splendid chap who had previously conquered the Mongol Rally in a 2CV. It was way more expensive to run than we could ever hope to charge so it sits in our memories as the longest dose of chaos we’ve unleashed in Latin America.

Rickshaw Run

2006 – Rickshaw Run

From a drawing on a napkin back in 2005 came the Rickshaw Run. After not a great deal of testing the website was launched to much fanfare and it sold out right away. Tom had made up a price of £97 per team on the grounds it sounded less than £100. He did not think to check whether it would cost many times that to run. Which it did. And then he forgot to charge over half of the teams taking part. Business genius.

Everyone we spoke to told us it was both too dangerous and impossible. So we ignored them. Half the teams quit and stormed out of a meeting in outrage. Wimps.

It turned out to be one of the greatest adventures on Earth. It’s still going strong today with multiple un-routes on offer. Thousands of people have now wobbled across the sub-continent in a glorified lawnmower. It spawned cousins in South East Asia and Sri Lanka. And there are more cousins to come…

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2004 – Mongol Rally

The original and in many ways the best adventure. 1/4 of the surface of the Earth taken on in a shitty car your granny would be ashamed of.

Deserts, mountains, dirt roads and no roads all in a sub 1 litre engine car that could accurately be described as crap. The adventuring ethos is simple: if nothing goes wrong, everything has gone wrong.

The first rally open to the public took place in 2004 for the princely sum of £0 per team. Tom expected thousands to turn up but only 6 left from inside a bar in East London.

But word spread fast and by 2006 it sold out of 200 places in about 4 seconds and in the process set the server on actual fire.

Now about 1000 wallies from all walks of life tackle the behemoth every year.