This 17-day rally starts and finishes at Portsmouth in the UK, although for teams wishing to join us from other countries or take a more leisurely drive south, you can meet us in Jerez de la Frontera (just north of Gibraltar)…
Thu 10 Mar – Meet at Portsmouth ferry port for the 22:15 ferry to Santander, Spain.
Fri 11 Mar – (Day 1) At sea
Sat 12 Mar – (Day 2) Santander (arrive 08:00) to Jerez de la Frontera
Sun 13 Mar – (Day 3) Jerez de la Frontera to Tarifa (day in Gibraltar)
Mon 14 Mar – (Day 4) Tarifa to Fes, Morocco
Tue 15 Mar – (Day 5) Fes to Midelt
Wed 16 Mar – (Day 6) Midelt to Merzouga
Thu 17 Mar – (Day 7) Merzouga to Lac Maider
Fri 18 Mar – (Day 8) Lac Maider to Zagora
Sat 19 Mar – (Day 9) Zagora – rest day / vehicle maintenance
Sun 20 Mar – (Day 10) Zagora to Lac Iriki
Mon 21 Mar – (Day 11) Lac Iriki to Tata
Tue 22 Mar – (Day 12) Tata to Agadir
Wed 23 Mar – (Day 13) Agadir to Moulay Bousselham
Thu 24 Mar – (Day 14) Moulay Bousselham to Gibraltar
Fri 25 Mar – (Day 15) Gibraltar to Valladolid
Sat 26 Mar – (Day 16) Valladolid to Saumur
Sun 27 Mar – (Day 17) Saumur to Caen for 16:30 ferry to Portsmouth, UK. Arrive at 21:15 hrs
THE ENTRY FEE…
The entry fee for this incredible adventure is from as little as £895 per person, which includes…
Full expedition support with mechanical, medical, recovery & communications equipment
Expedition Leader, French speaking Guide, Medic & Mechanics
4×4 Expedition support vehicles
Return ferry from Spain to Morocco
2 nights campsite accommodation in Spain (with the option to upgrade)
All campsite accommodation in Morocco (with the option to upgrade)
Hotel night in Gibraltar
UHF vehicle radio hire
Satellite route map for smartphone
Branded desert clothing
EARLY BIRD DISCOUNT UP UNTIL THE 31ST OCT 2021
4 per car – £895 per person
3 per car – £1,145 per person
2 per car – £1,395 per person
STANDARD ENTRY FEE – 1ST NOV 2021 TO 31ST JAN 2022
4 per car – £995 per person
3 per car – £1,245 per person
2 per car – £1,495 per person
HM FORCES ENTRY FEE (SERVING & RETIRED)
4 per car – £895 per person
3 per car – £1,145 per person
2 per car – £1,395 per person
THE OTHER COSTS…
Additional costs per car are…
Ferry – £700 (UK to Spain & France to UK)
Fuel – £166 (1,270 miles in Spain, assuming 40mpg)
Fuel – £280 (2,175 miles in Morocco, assuming 30mpg)
Fuel – £76 (585 miles in France, assuming 40mpg)
Tolls – £100 (Spain, Morocco & France)
Car Insurance – £90 (Morocco)
Teams wishing to take a more leisurely drive down to southern Spain, or are on a budget, can opt to take a cheaper ferry crossing from Dover to Calais and then use the toll-free roads through France, meeting up with the support crew in Jerez de la Frontera (just north of Gibraltar).
The same applies for those teams that are not in a rush to return to the UK from Gibraltar, being able to drive back at a more leisurely pace.
Additional costs per person are…
Food – £170 to £340 (£10 to £20 per person per day)
Accommodation – £70 – 2 hotel nights (Spain & France)
Hotel accommodation has been chosen for the return journey due to the possibility of cold and inclement weather during March in northern Spain and France.
As for vehicle choice, there are plenty of options…
Being a former French colony, Morocco still has close ties with the country and predominantly uses French cars, Citroen, Peugeot and Renault. Tending to be more reliable, Peugeots are the preferred choice of the three. For teams of 3 people, Citroen Berlingo / Peugeot Partners work very well, being comfortable, good off road and very reliable with their 1.9 non-turbo diesel engines.
Peugeot 206, 306, 406 (or better still a 205, 309, 405), Partner
Citroen Saxo, Berlingo, Xsara, Xsara Picasso
Renault Kangoo, Clio
Probably best to avoid any attempts the French have made at building a 4×4 (particularly the Scenic Rx4)
The most reliable cars in the world are Japanese, with Honda consistently taking the No.1 spot. The little Nissan Micra K11 is a firm favourite on banger rallies and Suzuki also do some really good cars such as the Swift. We particularly like the look of the Suzuki Ignis as it already comes with 180mm of ground clearance, so the suspension probably won’t need any modifications there.
Any small Honda, Nissan Micra K11, any Suzuki, any Toyota.
If you would prefer a 4×4, then the Honda CRV, Toyota RAV4, Suzuki Jimny, Nissan Terrano and Nissan X-Trail are all good choices.
German cars tend to be well screwed together, especially those from the Volkswagen Audi Group (VAG), which also includes cars from Skoda and Seat. We particularly like those models that are based on the Mk4 Golf platform, especially when fitted with their almost indestructible 1.9 turbo diesel engines. These include the new shape VW Beetle and Mk4 Jetta / Bora, Mk1 Audi A3’s and TT’s, Seat Leon Mk1 and Toledo Mk2, as well as the Skoda Octavia Mk1.
Front wheel drive tends to work better than rear wheel drive when off road, as the front wheels can power themselves out of sand etc, so you’ll find that BMW’s are less popular. That said though, the little BMW 1 Series might be worth a shot!
Although now quite rare and expensive, if you can get hold of a Mercedes W124 then you’l be in good company with most of the taxi drivers in North Africa, although you will need to raise the suspension! When they decided to mass produce cars in order to compete with BMW and the VAG group, Mercedes build quality and reliability went downhill and it’s only in recent years that it has returned to levels once afforded by this luxury marque.
VW Golf Mk 3, 4 & Beetle, Audi A3 & TT, Skoda Octavia & Fabia, Seat Leon & Toledo, especially those with the 1.9 diesel engine
Large and heavy saloons from VAG, BMW or Mercedes (apart from the W124)
We have loads of Fords here in the UK, with the Focus, Fiesta and Ka being very common. We like the look of the Ka, but they might be considered a little small for some. Fords as whole tend to be reliable and many have found their way onto rally stages at club level, so there are plenty of parts available to prepare such vehicles for the Sahara – suspension lift kits and engine sump guards etc. The big Mondeo’s and Scorpios are likely to cause you problems in the desert with their long overhangs at the rear and heavy weight, so best to be avoided.
Vauxhall / Opel:
Although not as reliable or with the same dynamic handling as an equivalent Ford, there are some models from the Vauxhall / Opel group that should prove quite capable in the desert. The nimble little Corsa has quite a good reputation, as does the Astra which is used by many Police Forces around the UK. Again, as with the French, it’s probably best to avoid any attempts they made at building a 4×4, the Frontera having shocking reliability issues.
Hatchback, Saloon or Estate?
Hatchbacks will work better in the desert with less overhang than equivalent saloons and estates, whilst shorter cars can ride over sand dunes easier than long ones. All models though will require a suspension lift kit to be fitted and ideally taller tyres.
If you can find a cheap 4×4 or SUV, then this would, be the best vehicle to take. They tend to have a higher ground clearance which is good for negotiating rocky sections and soft sand, four-wheel drive helps you in slippery conditions and their bodies and components tend to be made of stronger stuff than their saloon or hatchback equivalents.
Good examples are…
Honda CRV Mk1, Suzuki Jimny & VItara, Nissan X-Trail & Terrano, Toyota RAV4 Mk1 & 2, Kia Sportage
Vauxhall Frontera; any 4×4 built by the French.
Unfortunately, Land Rover’s problems with reliability is renowned throughout the world, which is a shame as they are such incredibly capable vehicles. Finding a cheap version that won’t cause you problems is going to be tough, but if you want to go down the Land Rover route, then look for a Discovery 1 with the 200 or 300 Tdi engines, or possibly a base model Discovery 2. You will though need to swap out the rear air suspension for coil springs. If you want a Freelander then only buy one with the BMW made Td4 diesel engine.
Manual or Automatic?
Manual or automatic doesn’t really matter either. Autos give you more control in slow speed sections as there isn’t a clutch to burn out, but manuals give you greater fuel range, are simpler and have a better chance of being fixed in the field and allow your car to be bump started if your battery dies.
Petrol or Diesel?
As for petrol or diesel, it doesn’t really matter, but diesel is always preferred on serious expedition vehicles due to the following reasons…
Fuel range tends to be better with a diesel engine
Low down torque helps you negotiate slow-speed sections without the need for slipping the clutch
Diesel fuel is safer to carry in Jerry cans
Depending on the car you choose, the following modifications may need to be done…
Suspension – raised suspension will help when negotiating soft sand and rocky sections
Roof Rack – somewhere to carry a second spare wheel & fuel Jerry can
Sump Guard – protection for the engine, probably the most important modification that needs to be done
Dog guard – to protect the occupants in case equipment in the back is thrown forward
You will be provided with a comprehensive kit list of all the clothing and equipment that you will need on the rally, which even goes into the finest detail of how many passport photos and pairs of socks that you should bring with you! The list is divided up into Essential, Advisable and Optional items, depending on how much free space you have in your vehicle, but to ensure that you manage to get through the sand dune sections though and limit the chance of mechanical failure, it’s always best to keep the vehicle as light as possible.
The main items required are your passport, driving licence and vehicle registration document, but we’ll provide you with a comprehensive list of all that is needed. For most countries, including the UK, a visa is not required, neither is a Carnet de Passage for your vehicle.
You won’t have to dress like a Victorian explorer or member of the SAS to undertake the rally, any lightweight clothing will do, which you’ll probably already have at home. The only item that you may not have is a pair of ski goggles in case we get hit by a sand storm.
Although popularised by Land Rover and 4×4 enthusiasts, roof tents are definitely not needed, a cheap offering from Vango or Millets being much lighter, safer and more versatile than something strapped to the roof of your car.
Self-inflating sleeping mats certainly offer more comfort than those made of closed cell foam, but either will do. It can get quite cool at night, plus the run across Europe might be cold, so a 4 season sleeping bag is advisable. Taking 2 lighter sleeping bags and fitting one inside the other gives you flexibility for the European and Sahara sections.
Medical & Hygiene:
You’ll be required to carry a basic First Aid kit, as well as any personal medication. Most of the time we’;ll be staying at campsites that have shower blocks with warm water, so it’s just the basics of soap, toothbrush and towel.
Food & Water:
Each vehicle will be required to carry 20 litres of water in a non-translucent container, the black plastic military Jerry cans being the best for this. Bottled drinking water can be purchased en route and we find that this is the safest way to ensure no upset stomachs.
Although there will be many opportunities to eat locally, each team must carry a minimum of 3 days food with them and able to cook for themselves. A portable gas stove, mess tins, cutlery and tinned food from your local Supermarket will be more than adequate. Dehydrated rations may save weight, but you have to carry extra water, they are expensive and never taste that good anyway. Tescos’ tins of stew, new potatoes and assorted veg makes for a hearty and simple to prepare meal.
Your mobile phone will work throughout most of Morocco apart from when we are in the Sahara itself. To keep costs down you can always bring an old unlocked mobile phone with you and buy a SIM card at the border on entering Morocco. Don’t forget to let your family know the number though.
As part of your entry fee though, each car will be issued with a UHF radio kit to allow car to car communication. These have a range of several miles and will help keep everyone together.
In addition to the above, all support vehicles will be fitted with a satellite phone in case of any emergencies.
Vehicle Tools & Spares:
You’ll be provided with a comprehensive list of tools, but most of the items you should have already such as screwdrivers, spanners and pliers, The only item that you may not be in possession of is a 12 volt air compressor, which will be needed to inflate and deflate tyres as we move between tarmac, rock and sand sections.
As long as your vehicle has been suitably prepared and carries the minimum of weight, it should be fine, but there will be some items that you must carry with you such as oils, lubricants, filters and belts. In addition to this, some ‘Bush Mechanics’ items will need to be carried including glues, sealants and tapes.
A second spare tyre will also be needed, but this doesn’t need to be fitted to a rim, although having it as a ‘ready to go’ complete wheel will save time in the desert.
Can I use someone else’s car on the rally?
Yes you can. As long as you have a copy of the original Vehicle Registration document, we can make up a ‘Letter of Authority to Drive’ which you can show to Customs officials and Police Officers when overseas.
Why can we only take a maximum of 4 drivers in each car?
Keeping the weight of your vehicle down is key to successfully negotiating the Sahara Desert. Adding an additional driver not only adds their personal weight, but that off their clothing & equipment, plus extra water, food and tents. Not only this, but the room inside even the largest 4×4 vehicles is quite limited and it just wouldn’t be a comfortable experience for them.
We would recommend the following team numbers…
Small car (Nissan Micra etc) – no more than 2 drivers
Medium car (For Focus etc) – no more than 3 drivers
Large car (Land Rover Discovery etc) – no more than 4 drivers
Where will we be sleeping?
Accommodation will primarily be at campsites, but in many overnight stops there will be the option to upgrade to a hostel (auberge) or hotel room. This will be on a first come first serve basis, but to avoid having uncomfortable nights sleep, it is best to bring a good quality sleeping bag and mat.
Upon returning to Europe we will spend one night in a Gibraltar hotel. For those that are driving back to the UK, we will also be staying in hotels in Spain and France as conditions for camping in March are likely to be cold.
Are there any rest days on the rally?
During the 17 day event, there will be 3 whole days in which you can rest.
Day 1 – On the ferry from Portsmouth to Santander
Day 3 – Gibraltar, when you have time to get ready for the desert as well as tour the ‘Rock’
Day 9 – Zagora, where you’ll get your vehicles checked over and stock up with supplies
Where is the best place to find a used car?
In order of preference, we would suggest the following online resources to find a suitable car in terms of the numbers available to choose from and the most reasonable prices…
Don’t forget your local papers and used car dealerships as well.
How many teams will be on the rally?
For this event, we are capping the number of entries at 24 teams. This equates to approximately 60 people as some teams have 3 drivers per car.
How many support crew will be on the rally?
There will be 2 support crew in one 4×4 for every 12 people / 6 cars that sign up for the rally:
For our 2021 rally, we had 9 support crew in four 4×4’s which was made up of…
Expedition Leader – 25 years experience of operating vehicles in extreme conditions (-60C to +50C)
Moroccan Guide – over 20 years experience guiding 4×4 vehicles throughout Morocco
Expedition Doctor – experienced GP and A&E doctor specialising in remote wilderness medicine
Chief Mechanic – serving British Army vehicle mechanic, skilled in ‘Battle Damage Repairs’
2nd Mechanic – ex British Army vehicle mechanic
3rd Mechanic / Film Crew’s Driver – serving British Army vehicle mechanic
Producer / Director – Freelance filmmaker
2nd Camera – Freelance cameraman
Photographer – Vehicle engineer and semi-professional photographer
What is the ratio of support crew to teams taking part?
For every 6 teams taking part in the rally, there will be at least 1 support vehicle and 2 crew, at least 1 of them being a mechanic.
Do we drive in a convoy or travel independently?
Each team will be provided with a copy of the route that they can use to navigate from on their smartphone. In order to do this it simply involves downloading a free App onto your phone called Maps.me. Each day’s route is then shared using bluetooth between devices. As modern smartphones are GPS enabled, this means you won’t be using up any of your mobile data and will provide accurate route and location information even when you are far from a mobile phone signal.
On the tarmac sections, this will allow teams to travel independently, with the support crew following up the rear to recover anyone who has broken down. If teams wish to stay close to the support vehicles though, that will be fine.
For the desert sections though, we’ll need to stay pretty tight as getting regular hatchbacks and saloon cars along the original Dakar Rally route will not be easy and it will be a team effort to get through!
Why are the ferries to and from the UK not included in the entry fee?
We considered including them in the entry fee, but there were 3 main reasons why this wouldn’t work:
- The cost of the ferries is based on the size of the vehicles and the number of passengers inside them. If included in the entry fee, to cover our costs, we would have to assume that every team was driving a large 4×4 with roof rack fitted and consisted of 4 team members. This would unfairly penalise the small cars with just 2 drivers.
- For those teams on a budget, there is the option of taking a cheaper ferry crossing from Dover to Calais and then using the toll free roads through France to get to Spain.
- Teams joining us on the rally may live on the continent and so the ferries are not needed by them.
- Some teams with time in hand may wish to take a more leisurely drive down to southern Spain and back.
Why are the return night’s accommodation not included in the entry fee?
Some teams may be joining us from the continent and will take a different route home, whilst others may wish to take a more leisurely drive to and from southern Spain.
If we wanted to save money and drive through France on the toll free roads, which way would we go?
The following website lists the best way to get through France toll free and without adding too much time compared to using the toll motorways:
What is the saving by taking the cheaper ferry and toll free roads through France?
This is based on taking the ferry or Eurotunnel from the UK to France and then using the toll free roads through France, compared to taking the Portsmouth to Santander ferry. This does though include a night in a hotel on the way down which is approximately £80 for 2 people sharing a twin room.
Why is the rally not taking a ferry back to the UK from Santander in northern Spain?
This was our intended plan but unfortunately the weekend that we wish to travel (based on our guide’s availability), there are no sailings from Santander on the Saturday afternoon, which would arrive back in the UK on Sunday evening. Rather than the rally eating into another week, it was decided to drive through France and take the ferry from Caen to Portsmouth on the Sunday afternoon.
This decision was made to accommodate all those that need to start back at work on the Monday morning. For those with more time on their hands though, there is the option to spend an extra day in Gibraltar and then drive up to Santander for the Sunday afternoon sailing, arriving back in the UK on Monday evening.
How much time to we have we get from Gibraltar to Caen for the ferry back to Portsmouth?
2 1/2 days.
The distance of 1,215 miles is estimated to take 19 hours, primarily on fast motorways and dual carriageways. Unlike the UK with its heavily congested roads, those on the continent, particularly across Spain, are largely devoid of traffic and actually enjoyable to drive. The plan would be as follows:
- Gibraltar to Valladolid – 484 miles / 7:40 hours
- Valladolid to Poitiers – 510 miles / 8:10 hours
- Poitiers to Caen – 232 miles / 3:40 hours (via Le Mans, Pegasus Bridge & Normandy beaches)