Friends' rally adventure in an ambulance

THREE old school friends from Essex are undertaking an unusual challenge as they prepare to drive to the other side of the world in a 30-year-old ambulance.

Elliot Furniss

THREE old school friends from Essex are undertaking an unusual challenge as they prepare to drive to the other side of the world in a 30-year-old ambulance.

Matthew Booth, 28, Russell Nunn, 28, and Stuart Garnham, 29, have signed up to take part in the Mongol Rally 2008 - a 10,000 mile race to Ulan Bator in Mongolia.

The event - a cross between 1960s cartoon Wacky Races and TV's Scrapheap Challenge - will see the lads race their 1978 former St John Ambulance across Eastern Europe and Western Asia before arriving in the remote country.

Matthew, who now lives in Surrey but went to school with Stuart and Russell in Chelmsford, said it would be a tough challenge but he hopes to raise lots of money for charity in the process.

The idea is that the teams use their wit and tenacity to make their way around the globe and over seven mountain ranges before arriving at their destination.

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The rules stipulate that vehicles must not have an engine over 1,000cc -although there is an exception.

If the rally committee deem a vehicle to have comedy or novelty value, it is allowed to compete and the boys' ambulance meets that criteria.

Matthew said: “I started off with one friend and a car then another of the guys said they wanted to come along and we were on Ebay at the time and just came across the ambulance.

“It's got all the history with it - even down to records of every single call it ever did. It's fascinating to look back through it.”

At the end of the race the vehicles get auctioned off for charity but, in order to enter in the first place, the teams must raise at least £1,000 for the chosen charities.

The team Gobi Ambulance lads are raising cash for the Mercy Corps, the Farleigh Hospice, Hope and Homes for Children and, of course, the St John Ambulance.

Matthew added: “I like a challenge and try to do things that are a bit unusual. This just seemed like an interesting challenge and I have got a few friends on board that I have known all my life.

“It's very light-hearted and you can do it on a shoestring. It's just about taking a rubbish car and doing very little in terms of preparation, but there is a serious side to it and it is for some good causes.”

The rally begins in Hyde Park on July 19 and the planned route for the ambulance includes passing through France, Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Russia before making it to Mongolia.

For more information about the event or to sponsor the lads visit www.gobi-ambulance.org.uk.

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