Three young car enthusiasts, who still have to get their full driving licences, are gearing up to undertake the “ultimate adventure” – a two-month rally through over 20 countries to Russia in a 30-year-old “rust bucket”.
By next July, when the Mongol Rally 2021 kicks off, the trio would not even have had a year of experience on the road. But neither is a lack of mechanical expertise, nor the fact that they have never driven abroad, dampening their drive to journey 20,000km in aid of charity.
Meanwhile, the Subarians – as they have called themselves after the Subaru J10 they bought for less than €500 – are rolling up their sleeves to get their streetcar named Dommy ready for the road.
“We heard about the Mongol Rally from a friend and started researching it,” said Neal Aquilina, Sebastian Darmanin Kissaun and Andrea Villa, who will all be 19 by the time of the adventure – and the youngest Maltese to ever participate.
“It is the sort of extreme adventure that always interested us. We decided it would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and the next thing we knew, we had got our car and had reserved our place.”
The Subarians have always had a keen interest in cars and would discuss going on a road trip – albeit never as long, extreme and exciting as this.
When they bought their rundown “mean-machine”, with its 1L 997cc engine, it was full of dirt and dust. But a deep cleaning, the extent of which is documented on their Facebook page, was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the work needed to transform it into an off-road-worthy vehicle.
“We still need to replace the wheels and rims to be more suitable for the desert conditions and a complete engine overhaul is required to make it possible to get to the finishing line.”
Other problems need to be fixed for Dommy to be up to scratch, but the Subarians are optimistic their car will make it – “even if we need to push him”.
The Mongol Rally starts on July 19 and ends on September 13 next year, but the boys expect to complete it by September 1. However, their own journey starts about two weeks before as it kicks off from the UK.
The most adventurous leg of this ‘mind-blowing’ trip is likely to be the Mongolian desert, where roads and maps do not exist
It is estimated to take approximately 250 hours of driving – “if we were to be in a high-quality car in perfect condition”. But this is not exactly the case!
The Subarians are already envisaging parts falling off their vehicle by the end of the rally.
“Rusty but trusty” Dommy has to take the trio through countries like Iran and Mongolia, ending up in Ulan-Ude, Russia.
The most adventurous leg of this “mind-blowing” trip is likely to be the Mongolian desert, where roads and maps do not exist, while other extreme highlights will be driving through the narrow, two-way Pamir Highway that traverses the mountains through Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. It dangles off cliff edges, 4,500-metres high, to the point that travellers suffer altitude sickness.
The Subarians are envisaging several other unexpected twists and turns on the trip that will include ferries, rafts, dirt roads and no roads at all, crossing flimsy bridges and diverse terrain.
But their limited driving experience does not worry them either as they intend “practicing heavily”, including on the opposite side of the road during a short driving trip to Italy with their fathers before.
Meanwhile, worried is an understatement when it comes to how scared their parents were when they first showed interest in the rally. But their sons have reassured them that “with the right preparation and mindset we should make it in one piece”.
They have set themselves a number of regulations to follow and agreed to do a first-aid course as well as intern at a garage for as much mechanical experience as possible in the run-up to the trip.
The rally is being undertaken for charity and the team will be donating funds to Cool Earth, which strives to protect rainforests and prevent deforestation, as well as Dar Bjorn for ALS sufferers and tree-planting project Saggar– a pressing issue for the team due to Malta’s high population and car density.
They are aiming to raise €1,500 for charity through GoGetFunding account and Revolut on 7902 3689. Their progress can be followed on @subarians