Some time in 2002 a chap was watching the Paris-Dakar challenge on TV and wondered whether it would be possible to do the same trip on a budget. Of £100. A few months later a convoy of 52 of Britain's finest bangers set off to find out (48 made it) and the Plymouth-Dakar Challenge was born.
A couple of years (and several hundred cars rehomed) later, some people decided Saharan Africa was far too easy (almost any problem can be solved for $20), and looked eastwards for further adventure. The London Tashkent rally colonised Kazakhstan long before Borat made it famous, and now runs annually, finishing in whichever central Asian state isn't currently having a political crisis. Think potholes you can stand up in, speed guns that are extremely price sensitive, and border guards with excellent moustaches.
However, we recognise that not every year can be a rally year, or at least not a 3-week rally year. Some people have employers, some people have spouses, some people have both. So for those of you who need your annual banger "fix" but don't have 3 weeks, we present (drum roll)...
The Grecian 3000 Challenge.
A 3000-mile dash across Europe to the edge of Asia. Taking in the some of the greatest human achievements of all time (Nurburgring, Stelvio pass) before heading to the edge of the Black Sea via Rome and Athens.
Cars, as always, must cost no more than £250. Little or no money should be spent on preparation or preventative maintenance.
Please see the route pages for the itinerary. We have developed two routes, depending on your personal preferences for culture and fine wine or capital hopping and Eastern European lager.
Both routes start with a night in Cologne, make a few laps round the Nurburgring and disappear south for a night in the Swiss Alps. We then descend the 48 hairpins of the Stelvio pass (hopefully without the assistance of the barriers) before the party splits.
Route 1 heads straight for Rome, where people can take their first rest day, appreciate the culture and generally do as the Romans do.
We then shoot across to the other coast of Italy and catch a ferry across the Adriatic Sea (it's like crossing the English channel but more blue and less rain and port strikes).
While this is going on, the rest of the party (route 2) are making their way through a series of Eastern European states (Slovenia - Croatia - Bosnia and Herzegovina - Montenegro - Albania). Less ancient civilisation to look at, but on the positive side there's border guards to argue with and a greater risk of unexploded landmines to keep you entertained...
The groups then meet up somewhere on the Greek coast in a day-long dash for Athens. Then a rest day to take pictures of your cars belching blue smoke all over the Parthenon, before heading north through Greece around the edge of the Aegean Sea, finally striking northwest across Bulgaria to finish on the shores of the Black Sea.
By then your tally will be 9 days, 3000 miles, and 8-10 countries.
Cars that make it to Burgas (previous rallies suggest a 30% failure rate!) will then be donated to charity (details to follow), which will have the double benefits of supporting a good cause, and preserving some of Leyland's finest metal in Bulgaria's rust-resistant climate for years to come.
The Challenge runs between 29th April and 7th May, 2011, and is conveniently timed such that those who follow F1 can take a slight detour at the end to watch the Turkish GP...
The registration page is up and running - book your place now!