The cars must be at least 20 years old, entrants can choose their own route, and the winner gets a camel: the Allgäu-Orient Rally has its own rules. This year's race will include three classic Mini cars.
One thing is certain: this rally is not for wimps or tourists looking for a package holiday where everything is nicely organised for them. The organisers of the Allgäu-Orient Rally make that quite clear on their website. This exotic-sounding rally is no sightseeing trip, but a thoroughbred oldtimer rally with strict rules and a clear goal – although the idea of setting off from Germany, in cars at least 20 years old, to find the quickest route to Asia and win a camel may sound rather strange at first.
Starting in Oberstaufen, a town of less than 10,000 residents at the southern edge of Germany, the rally takes the participants to Jordan. Now, Oberstaufen is hardly the epicentre of rallying. It was here, however, that the idea of organising an oldtimer rally for a good cause was born almost a decade ago. "Because people who live here are up for eccentric things," was the reasoning. And why Jordan? Because the organisers are friends with the head rally organiser in Jordan, Sakher el Fayez.
The rally circus first set course from Germany for the Orient in 2006. This year, the participants set off on their seventh trip at the end of April. For the first time, however, this year's destination is not Jordan but Azerbaijan, as the political situation in Syria meant that section of the route was seen as unsafe. The prize remains the same though. In true oriental tradition, the winner will still receive a camel as reward for his efforts.
The Olympic ideal is what counts.
This year, three Mini cars have joined the camel hunt for the first time. The German "minibaijan" team lined up with three classic Mini cars and gave its potent rally cars the dramatic names "Fireman" (with a striking red livery and a Union Jack on its roof), "Nightman" (black and barely visible at night) and "Nobleman" (in a noble grey colour). Although the trio does not really rate its chances of actually winning the race, it is more about the Olympic ideal: it is not the winning, but the taking part that counts. Whatever happens, the three classic Minis will serve a purpose when they reach the end of the rally. "When they arrive in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku, the cars will be donated," says Andreas Lampka on behalf of the Mini team. "The profits will go to a good cause."
The starting signal at this year's Allgäu-Orient Rally was given at the end of April, and the participants have since made their way to Turkey. In principle, the teams can choose their own routes. Apart from motorways and toll routes, any roads can be used. A roadbook stipulates which locations must be passed through in order to complete the special stages typical of rallying. The cars must average no more than 666 kilometres per day. Those are the most important rules. The participants still have more than 2000 kilometres ahead of them before they reach Baku.
So far, everything has run to plan for "Fireman", "Nightman", "Nobleman" and the other rally teams. As such, it is time for the Azerbaijani camels to start getting a bit nervous.
The hunt is reaching its climax. There is no need for animal-lovers to be alarmed, however. In the seven-year history of the Allgäu-Orient Rally, no winners have even taken their camel home with them. "A camel belongs in the desert, or in its ancestral homeland," says Lampka. This year, the camel will once again be donated to poor and needy locals, for whom it will serve as the basis of their existence. It remains to be seen what the people of Baku regard more highly – the camel or one of the three classic Minis.
We will only find out when the camel hunt comes to an end on 12th May.