Hong Kong trio set for London to Mongolia rally

Panda Express adventurers prepare to drive 16,000 kilometres from London for charity

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 June, 2013, 8:18am

A team of Hong Kong competitors will take part in the 16,000-kilometre Mongol Rally for the first time next month.

It's the 10th anniversary of the car marathon that starts in London and finishes in Mongolia - and teacher Natalie Chan, Hong Kong University medical student Aaron Chan and Chinese University law student Jonathan Ma are relishing the challenge.

As the Panda Express team, the three 26-year-olds will embark on an epic journey across a third of the world on July 13. And as the Mongol Rally website makes clear, it's an unsupported adventure that can be extremely dangerous.

"You really are on your own and you are putting both your health and life at risk. It won't be easy but it sure sounds like an adventure, doesn't it?" Natalie said.

Besides the risky and exciting nature of the race, ultimately the trio are taking on the challenge for charity - Cool Earth, an environmental organisation that protects Amazonian rainforests.

"Living in Hong Kong where the air quality is getting worse by the day, I thought this charity is an amazing one to support as an attempt to offset our carbon footprints," Natalie said.

The team have bought their car for £2,400 (HK$28,000), which is now sitting in a London garage. Part of the challenge is to drive the worst car possible. And as there's a limit on the engine size - the maximum being 1.2 litres - the choices are limited.

"We originally wanted to get a Fiat Panda because our team name is Panda Express," Natalie said. "But when we had to decide on the car, we had four members so had to consider comfort and practicality."

They eventually settled on a 2004 Fiat Doblo 1.2 8V Active 5DR and will collect the car after arriving in England on July 2.

Natalie and Aaron first got the idea to do the rally after completing a six-week trip from Mongolia to Iceland together last summer. While they were in Mongolia they met competitors finishing the rally and it piqued their interest.

"In our hostel we spoke to people who had just finished the rally and they told us how much they enjoyed the trip. It sounded like a really cool thing to do, so we looked into it," Natalie said.

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