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From Colne to Mongolia: 10,000 miles, 20 countries, and one Nissan Micra

The Tiki Tourers Team: (from left) Lucy Barrett, Chris Hyde, Melvin the Micra, and Pete Barrett.
The Tiki Tourers Team: (from left) Lucy Barrett, Chris Hyde, Melvin the Micra, and Pete Barrett.
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In the 1200s, it took Genghis Khan over two decades to conquer the Asian continent and establish one of the largest empires known to human kind. Fast forward 800 years, and a couple from Colne are set to embark on their own continent-traversing Odyssey as they tackle the 10,000-mile Mongol Rally in a 2001 Nissan Micra they bought for £230.


Together for 11 years, Lucy Barrett (28) and Chris Hyde (28) form the 'Tiki Tourers' rally team which will be competing in the infamous race across 20 countries, three deserts, and five mountain ranges when the Mongol Rally gets underway next month. And - from the paved autobahns of Germany to the suspension-testing tracks of Armenia and the endless skylines of the Mongolian deserts - the pair are pinning all their mechanical hopes on their Nissan Micra named Melvin.

From new suspension and tyres, to being kitted out in rally stickers, Melvin the Micra has certainly undergone a makeover for the race.

From new suspension and tyres, to being kitted out in rally stickers, Melvin the Micra has certainly undergone a makeover for the race.

"We saw a friend of a friend of a friend on Facebook post a picture of a beat-up Micra on a mountaintop in Kazakhstan with an amazing view," explained Chris when asked about what inspired him and Lucy to take on such an extreme challenge. "We said: 'We should look at doing that'. We signed up the next day.

"We've always travelled, so we've always had an ambition to do a challenge combined with travelling," he added, with the pair having visited 37 countries and counting as well as living in New Zealand for a year. "We're not ones for sitting on a beach."

A gruelling drive across some of the most challenging terrain known to mechanical engineering, participants in the rally will be waved off at the start line in Prague with the prospect of 16,000km ahead of them on their way to Mongolia and then the finish line at Ulan-Ude in Southern Russia. But - spurred on to raise as much money as they can for Cancer Research UK and Cool Earth, a rainforest-protection charity - Lucy and Chris are far from daunted.

"Is wasn't a hard decision to go for it," said Lucy, an environmental lead working for Thames Water. "We thought it would be amazing straight away."

Globetrotters: Melvin sports a map of the world on his bonnet as a reminder of the epic journey awaiting the Tiki Tourers.

Globetrotters: Melvin sports a map of the world on his bonnet as a reminder of the epic journey awaiting the Tiki Tourers.

With a 70% completion rate, there are only three Rules of the Rally for a race almost halfway around the world: vehicles must have a 1200cc engine limit, teams must be unsupported, and every team needs to raise at least £1,000 for charity.

"We wanted to do something a bit different for charity and Lucy's father, Pete Barrett, has always been into rallying, so it's something we could set up as a family," explained Chris, who - like Lucy - is a former Park High and Nelson and Colne College student. "Every family is unfortunately touched by cancer, and we wanted to raise money for a really worthwhile charity."

"The car cost us £230, [but] we've been preparing it every other weekend to iron out anything that could stop us, and there's been a lot of investment through sponsors," Chris added, with Melvin's stickers sponsored by Visco Solutions, part of the Text Styles UK group in Colne. "It's getting the best of everything. We've got top-of-the-range, all-terrain tyres from Bridgestone and we've been sponsored by a high-performance suspension suppliers called Spax Performance Ltd and Humphris Rallysport.

An ever-popular choice, Micras are often spotted slaloming through the Lesser Caucasus and the Gobi Desert this time of year, with around 50 to 60 of the "little tanks" as Chris calls them usually taking part in the 400-strong annual rally. But breakdowns are inevitable, and so Pete has been helping the pair set up the car since September and trying his best to arm the two soon-to-be-rally drivers with a few basic mechanical skills so they can tackle any major issues.

"There will be challenges, and I'm sure there'll be a few heated conversations in the car, but together I think we'll overcome anything," said Chris, a civil engineer. "If you break down or crash, the organisers don't come out and support you, you've got to sort it out yourself. But we can always seek help from locals if we have a massive break down that we can't fix, that's one of the great things about the rally: it allows you to interact with the locals.

"I don't speak Russian, so it may be a comedy of errors, but with a bit of sign language and pointing we'll be fine!"

After completing the rally, the couple - who are open to sponsorship offers from local businesses - will fly home with Melvin the Micra following in due course via the trans-Siberian railway, ready to be picked up in Estonia and brought back to East Lancashire as a memento from what is sure to be an unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime experience.

"We're getting excited," said Chris.

For more information, head to the Tiki Tourers' website at https://tikitourers.com/, their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/tikitourers/, and their Instagram page @tikitourers. You can also make a donation to their fundraising efforts at https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/mongolrally2018