Materialise colleagues Joris Aerts and Petro Khaselev hatched the ambitious and slightly deranged plan to join the Mongol Rally this summer. What is the Mongol Rally? The premise is simple: participants must drive from London to Ulan Ude near the Mongolian border, and they must do so in a totally rubbish car. What’s more, each team needs to raise over £1000 for a charity of their choice – Joris and Petro donated their funds to the Materialise initiative African Drive. As part of the fundraising effort, Materialise offered to 3D print their car, which was then given to one of the generous donors as a reward.
The first steps were acquiring a car with an engine under 1000cc. Joris and Petro found a magnificent 1989 SEAT Ibiza with a 903cc engine which fit the bill perfectly. For months they gathered visas, sanded the car, tuned it and pimped it in the brightest of greens and yellows. Baptized “Silly” – a nickname derived from their team name, “Team Silly Coincidence” – they were as ready as ever by the time July rolled around.
After participating in the rally launch at the Goodwood Motor Circuit in the UK, the teams were off! It was an easy start for Team Silly Coincidence as they breezed through Europe in just eight days. The trouble began in Turkey – the team’s trusty car had developed an oil leak and they were required to stop in Cappadocia to fix it. Despite getting help from a couple of mechanics, the problem persisted and the mountainous roads near the border of Iran really took the wind out of Silly’s sails. After a stopping in Tehran, the local mechanic informed them that they had in fact been running on only three cylinders instead of four – and the time it took to fix the busted engine would ultimately force them to stay in Tehran for five days. The team was getting behind schedule, so as soon as the engine was fixed, Joris and Petro drove on to Turkmenistan.
Catching up on lost time
From Bajgiran to Ashgabat to the Door of Hell – a big gas crater 260 km from Ashgabat – team Silly Coincidence was confronted with one of the most difficult roads yet on their journey. Despite the potholes, bumps and sleeping camels, the team pushed on past the Uzbekistan border, and drove on to historical Samarkand and the capital of Uzbekistan, Tashkent.
A change of plans
One massive traffic jam later, Joris and Petro managed to cross the border into Kazakhstan. It was on the way to Almaty that they heard the bad news: due to recently changed legislation, all teams driving into Mongolia would need to pay a 5000€ cash deposit. This put Team Silly Coincidence in a tricky position, as they were already short on time and couldn’t afford to drive the long way round through Russia, and eventually they were forced to abandon the idea of reaching the finish line. The alternative they chose? Driving to Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan and selling the car for scrap over there. With Silly barely holding together, they reached Bishkek and held an impromptu car sale in the middle of Osh Bazaar, which proved to be a great success with the locals.
Leaving the car behind in Bishkek, Joris and Petro concluded their adventure with a few days in Moscow, before heading home to Europe. In total they drove 12,141 km, saw 14 countries and raised £1000 for African Drive – money which will be well spent on safe public transport in Benin.