16 September 2010

Graduates travel 9,500 miles in gruelling charity challenge

L-R William Day, Phil Turnock, George Dinsdale

Intrepid graduates from the University of Sheffield, who travelled 9,500 miles across 16 countries in a beaten old banger, all in the name of charity, have returned from their gruelling adventure.

After five weeks and one day on the road, Philip Turnock, 22, and George Dinsdale, 22, who graduated from the University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering in July, along with their friend William Day, 22, completed the Mongol Rally. The Rally gives brave participants the task of travelling a third of the way around the world in a car costing less than £1,000 with an engine smaller than 1.2 litres.

As a result of their epic adventure, the team managed to raise £1,315 for the Mercy Corps, who distribute aid and support to communities living in rural and extremely harsh conditions, preserving a traditional way of life.

During their journey, which began on 24 June 2010, the team navigated across a host of countries including Romania, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Russia, braving poor road conditions and uncomfortable temperatures.

The Mongol Rally

Throughout the challenge, the trio had to rely upon their engineering expertise to help their ailing car – nicknamed Fiona - deal with the gruelling journey. This started off smoothly, with the Fiesta peaking at 92mph on the German autobahn, before it needed the fan rewired in Turkey and new rear shocks in Kazakhstan. However, as the roads turned to rock strewn dirt tracks, the car suffered a number of hitches, including two flat tyres, a full set of snapped suspension springs, failure of rear brakes and handbrake, broken front lights, a cracked windscreen and a detached rear axel.

The team made many friends along the way, who all offered support to one another, convoying with each other across different legs of the journey.

The Mongol Rally, which first began six years ago, attracts 400 teams of people and does not require participants to follow a set route. Instead, it only lists starting points in England, Spain or Italy and an end location in the Mongolian capital Ulaan Baatar, giving participants the chance to go all over the world on their way, whether that be as far north as the arctic circle or as far south as Afghanistan.

The Mongol Rally

Upon arrival at the finish line in Mongolia on Sunday 29 August, the team’s Fiesta car, which was bought using £500 in funding from the University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, was auctioned off, with all the proceeds going to struggling local farmers in the region.

William Day said: “As our beards grew longer and the length of time between showers increased we encountered friendly face after friendly face waving and smiling,or trying to help us out. Iran especially exceeded all expectations and was by far everyone’s favourite country in terms of the people, who were so friendly and made us feel like celebrities wherever we went, often handing us babies to get photos with. One person even gave us free food and shelter for an evening, all because we offered him a Liverpool FC scarf!.”

Philip Turnock added: “Essentially it was the biggest adventure of our lives to date and it didn't disappoint one bit. We are all sad to see Fiona go and we hope her new owner will be less severe with her. At the end ofthe day we raised £1,315 for charity. Not bad for three graduates on a six-week summer holiday.”