U of A alumni to trek through Europe in Mongol Rally

It’s called the “greatest motoring adventure on the planet.”

The Mongol Rally is a 10,000-mile vehicular odyssey that begins in England and ends in in Ulan Ude, Russia, that must be undertaken in a car with an engine displacing no larger than 1.2 liters.
If it seems chaotic, that’s exactly its intention.

Teams must plan their own routes to the finish line, and there is no set time limit for completing the rally, putting the emphasis on adventure rather than completion and competition.

Any fan of Top Gear’s cheap car challenges may consider it one of the greatest automotive undertakings on earth.

This sense of adventure drew in Alberta School of Business graduate Michel Gutfreund, as he and five others formed a team called the Rocky Mountaineers who will be competing in this year’s edition of the rally, which commences July 19.

“When else are you going to be able to visit these countries, and when else are you going to have the time to do so?” Gutfreund said.

“The adventure side of it made it seem like one of those things that has to be done.”

Among the rally’s few other stipulations is that all competing teams must raise at least £1,000 for a charity of their choice. Gutfreund and his team choosing to raise money for the Alberta Cancer Foundation in support of the Cross Cancer Institute, a decision made by one of Gutfreund’s fellow participants, Jin Choi, due to his previous experience with the charity.

After an extensive vehicle search, Geutfrend and company settled on a Subaru Libero as their vehicle of choice: a van with ample space for the six team members and an engine small enough to meet the requirements of the rally.

“It has all wheel drive, so we’re hoping that comes in handy in the latter stages of the rally when there aren’t as many roads,” Geutfrend said.

Other possibilities for vehicles included an ancient Volkswagen camper van, which ultimately had to be nixed because its engine was too large.

With the amount of territory covered, there are an almost unlimited amount of routes that participants can take, with some teams traveling as far south as Iran and Afghanistan, and as far north as the Arctic Circle.

While the Rocky Mountaineers may not be choosing such an elaborate route, one notable leg includes a drive down the Transfagarasan highway in Romania, known for its appearance on an episode of the popular British motoring show, Top Gear.

While there is a literal journey taking place, there is also something to be said about the relationships that are forged during the 10,000-mile road trip.

“At first it was a little scary, because not everyone knew each other really well,” Geutfrend said.
“Eventually, my friend who was organizing the team just said that he was going to book a spot in the rally, and whoever wanted to go with him would be welcome.

“I was working a full time accounting job this past winter, and I thought to myself, is this really something I want to be doing for the rest of my life. And at that point, it was an easy decision for me to join the team.”

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