Intrepid duo from Saffron Walden are gearing up for a rally big adventure

PUBLISHED: 08:33 05 July 2018 | UPDATED: 08:46 05 July 2018

Fawcett and Fitch with their 1999 Nissan Micra. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

Fawcett and Fitch with their 1999 Nissan Micra. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

Archant

An intrepid team from Saffron Walden are taking part in the Mongol Rally in a 1999 blue Nissan Micra this summer.

The Mongol Rally is an intercontinental car rally that begins in Europe and ends in Russia and James Fawcett and Ben Fitch, both 24, have chosen a route which should take them about five weeks to complete.

James and Ben, whose team name is ‘Fawcett and Fitch’, went on a road trip together across eastern Europe last year and wanted to continue their adventures - although they said they have never done anything quite like this.

“We decided to sign up in April when we were having a drink in the King’s Arms [in Saffron Walden],” Ben said.

“We’ve been on trips every few years, but nothing to this extent.”

The pair will be raising money for Cool Earth, the charity set by the organisers which fights deforestation and global warming, and the charities chosen by James and Ben are UNICEF and Alzheimer’s Research UK.

“It’s important to remember this is a very privileged area,” James said. “There is no one particular crisis going on in the world and rather than just choose one specific case, we wanted to try and help them all by raising money for UNICEF.”

James is currently studying for a masters degree in composition at Trinity in London and Ben is starting a small business in aquaponics, which will be based near Saffron Walden.

The pair will leave the UK for the start line in Prague on July 12. From there, they will drive the Nissan Micra, which cost them £300, through to Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, get the ferry across the Caspian Sea to Kazakhstan, drop down through Uzbekistan to Tajikistan, before going back through Kyrgyzstan and heading up to Mongolia.

The rally originally ended in Mongolia, but to avoid costs and taxes associated with vehicle imports and disposal, the rally now passes through Mongolia and ends in Russia.

Asked what they were most worried about, James said: “It’s time management on the way - some of the visas mean we have to get there in a specific time window. The ferry across the Caspian Sea can sometimes take two weeks to turn up. Some people get deported and get a black stamp.

“With no traffic, no problems and driving four and a half hours each day, we should get there in five weeks.

“We’ve set aside days to see cities and spend time in places too. We definitely want to explore Uzbekistan and Georgia. And apparently there is a floating oil city on the Caspian Sea, on an old oil rig.”

As part of the route, James and Ben want to take the Pamir Highway, which runs through Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan.

“It’s an old Soviet road. Someone suggested we get a roll cage for the car, you know, just in case,” James said. “This has been more of a challenge than our other adventures because we have had to plan it quite meticulously. We’ve got all our maps ready.”

The first Mongol Rally took place in 2004, organised by a group called The Adventurists, in which six teams started and four completed the course.

“This year is the biggest one they’ve had, with 400 teams,” Ben said. “Some people are riding solo on a moped and some have comedy vehicles, like buses. You can have as many people as you like in a team.”

The rally has just three rules: you can only take a small vehicle of 1.2 litres or less, you are completely on your own without support or backup and you have to raise £1,000 for charity. £500 of the money raised will go towards the organiser’s official charity, Cool Earth, and the rest goes to charities chosen by the participants.

James and Ben will be vlogging their journey on Youtube.

To sponsor the pair on their adventure, visit https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Team/FawcettandFitch and to follow their journey, visit www.facebook.com/FawcettandFitch.

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