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Badawi Trail Preview (October 10 – 26 2023)

45 Crews to Head into the Unknown, on the Trail to the Last Oasis

Badawi Trail Preview (October 10 – 26 2023)

On October 10th, 45 courageous crews will take to the start line for one of the greatest endurance rallies of the year, the Badawi Trail to the Last Oasis. This adventure event covers a distance of 7500 km on a 17-day journey through Jordan, the Royal Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, hitherto unexplored territory for HERO-ERA.

When you have a history of running adventure rallies to all corners of the globe, and almost all of the continents, it can sometimes be a difficult task to keep discovering new gems, but this part of the world offers up fruits new for all involved, as well as those keeping a keen watch from home. Jordan itself has been a crossroads for travel across Europe, Asia and Africa for thousands of years and its lands contain many cultural and historical icons, such as the Ancient city of Petra, and the same can be said for Saudi Arabia, the epicentre of Islam and, until recently, relatively closed off to the rest of the world.

Change is afoot though, and new opportunities to explore these regions have opened up, a fact that Dakar has taken full advantage of since 2020 and no doubt all of those involved in this adventure will be excited about the opportunity to follow in the wheel tracks of these gladiators and get stuck into some desert action.

They won’t be disappointed either, with plenty of off-piste desert driving to get to grips with, and it’s no surprise that there are plenty of faces that competed on the Sahara Challenge last year in the ranks of the Badawi competitors together with names from the world of racing and the WRC. It won’t be quite rally-raid levels, as the protagonists are equipped with slightly less sophisticated machinery and will be running to regularity regulations, albeit in desert specification.

Amongst the teams are three-time European Truck Racing Champion Richard Walker and his navigator Faith Douglas in their 1939 Chevrolet Coupe, both from the UK. From F1 and IndyCar there is ace engine designer-builder, the Swiss Mario Illien in his self-built Ford Escort and former WRC charger and racer Jorge Perz Compac and Jose Maria Volta from Argentina in their 1939 Chevrolet Coupe.

There are winners and endurance experts on the entry list who will certainly have their eyes on the prizes. Bill Cleyndert won the Sahara Challenge in 2022 with his daughter, this time he is navigated by LeJog gold medal winner Emily Anderson in their 1925 Bentley. There are winning combinations in the Porsche entries too with Lars and Annette Rolner from Denmark and Filip Engelen with Ann Gillis from Belgium.

Three-wheel World Record breaker from his long-distance completion of the 2019 Peking Paris Motor Challenge on a 1907 Moto-Tri 700 cc tricycle, Anton Gonnissen, returns to warm up for the 2024 Peking to Paris Motor Challenge. This time he is in his 1928 Bentley with navigator Ingeborg Willemen, both from Belgium.

The French are represented by Serge and Jacueline Berthier in their 1971 Citroen SM invoking the spirit of Dakar, whilst Corinne Vigreux is navigating Dutchman Harold Goddijn in a 1928 Bentley.

The Swiss duo of Xavier and Lucas de Sarrau are the lucky crew who will steer and guide HERO-ERA 1 on its competition debut. The rescued 1967 Fastback Mustang has been totally re-engineered by leading global engineering company Prodrive, built to be the new flagship Arrive & Drive car for HERO-ERA. This is the first big test for the desert rally machine.

Expert endurance competitors from Germany are also in the mix represented by the Pohl family. Niklas and Nathalie are in a Mercedes Heckflosse 220 SEb whilst Andreas and Jacqueline Pohl are also staying true to their national motor manufacturers in their Mercedes 230 S Heckflosse.

There are also those that will be taking on the action in pre-war machinery, in fact 13 lucky entries will be vintage machines, of which a good number will be heading to China next summer for the long-anticipated Peking to Paris Motor Challenge.

This is one of the last opportunities to get set for that event, and this rally will no doubt provide ample opportunity to test machinery and stamina ahead of that mammoth undertaking. One crew who will be taking that preparation very seriously will be car no 1, the 1914 American LaFrance crewed by Tomas de Vargas Machuca and Ben Cussons. The oldest machine competing, and probably the largest, was last seen taking part in the Sahara Challenge, where there were no inside favours granted for the Chairman of the company.

Indeed, quite the opposite, as the cumbrous machine required constant maintenance, it became an activity that Tomas was involved with until the early hours most mornings. His teammate Ben Cussons wasn’t with him on that trip, and this will be an opportunity for him to experience competing in a car that can be somewhat on the laborious end of the endurance spectrum. As the adventure seeking Chairman of the Royal Automobile Club, he is relishing this desert challenge before the epic Peking to Paris Motor Challenge (18 May- 23 June 2024).

They won’t be the only ones as there are 17 crews in this field in the same position, but don’t be fooled into thinking that this will just be a proving ground for their future adventures, they will all no doubt be looking to do well in this arena. After all, nobody travels halfway around the world without some ambition to be at the sharp end.

To win though, first you must cross the line, and that old adage rings very true in the world of endurance rallying. There are 17 days and many thousands of kilometres to contend with before any names can be etched into trophies, and the road along the way is filled with unknown pitfalls, particularly in the desert when the Wadi’s appear out of nowhere to confound the unwary. Whether a win is on the cards or not these long-distance adventures always become about far more than the competition. This is extreme travelling and the experiences that are shared along the way form a tight bond between the caravan of like-minded souls, all united in the goal of reaching the finish.

When it comes to it, that is the aim of the game for all 45 of the crews entered, each pair wishes to finish. What happens along the way is the unknown and that is where the magic happens. The Badawi Trail to the Last Oasis will no doubt bring plenty of that magic, it is going to be some ride, and all will now be counting the seconds until the start.

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