It’s the 28th of April, 2012 and the seventh Allgäu-Orient-Rally is about to start in Oberstaufen, Germany. But if you’re imagining daredevil rally drivers in fireproof racing suits and full-visor crash helmets, nervously sitting in highly-tuned competition cars waiting for the checkered flag to drop, you would be well wide of the mark. Here in the South German foothills of the Alps, it’s much closer to a fairground atmosphere as the 103 teams and 262 vehicles roll down the starting ramp with a friendly wave headed for Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. Among them was team no. 59 with its three Classic Mini affectionately named "Fireman," "Nobleman" and "Nightman."
Cheered on their way: rally entrants set off on their eastward trek
Well prepared: Team minibaijan
The relaxed atmosphere is easily explained: this 6,000-kilometre “jaunt” is not about shaving tenths of a second off your finishing time, but about completing an epic yet affordable adventure. The idea starts with the cars themselves, which have to be at least 20 years old or worth no more than €1,111.11 each. And the financial restrictions set by the organizers don’t end there. Participants are only allowed to sleep in their cars, outdoors, in a tent or in hotels that cost no more than a mere €11.11 per night. Even toll charges for motorways and expensive satellite navigation equipment are banned by the competition rules. Half the fun is about being savvy with your wallet.
Teamwork takes center stage. A crew has to consist of six people amongst between three vehicles. That’s for their own safety, because on the roads through southeastern Europe, Turkey, and further into Asia Minor, a good navigator and car mechanic to accompany the driver is an undoubted advantage in reaching the finish line along the shores of the Caspian Sea in good health and without getting lost.
Intrepid trio: "Nightman", Nobleman" and "Fireman" en route to Baku
But that is when the really hard part of the Allgäu-Orient-Rally starts. All participants, including Team “Minibaijan” and its trio of Classic Mini, donate their cars at the end of the event so that they can be converted into cash for good causes. Whatever form that money-making takes, the revenues received flow into a variety of charitable aid projects. For a genuine Mini-lover, giving up your cherished car – even for a worthy cause – is a real heart-wrenching sacrifice. But we think that shows a true desire to help.