FAcoat RALLY MONGOLIA 2019 INTERNATIONAL CROSS COUNTRY RALLY
「Onward to a Grassy Prairie Adventure」
This rally feels almost like a voyage at sea. It is a journey like the adventures of Sinbad traveling towards a flower paradise. Sand dunes attack like giant waves and beautiful blue lakes give off great visual appeal. This beautiful adventure is unfolding like an epic sea voyage that continues to the ends of the earth.
FAcoat Rally Mongolia 2019 “Ever more beautiful, the Grassy Odyssey”
Rally Mongolia has changed! You might even say drastically. One example of this is the catering and bivouac system. Essential equipment you will need no longer includes a tent or even a sleeping bag.
But more than anything else, the biggest change in this rally is a shift from a tough competition rally to a beautiful rally. The top cross country rally experts around the world with nearly one voice call it, “The most beautiful grassy plain rally in the world.” These experts saying this include the likes of Gaston Rahier, Raymond Loizeaux, and Yoshimasa Sugawara.
However, the top rallyists know that these beautiful landscapes hide an intense, rugged course route. The quest to know these beautiful landscapes even further is the current Rally Mongolia. This is the 21st century where unknown wilderness has all but vanished. Yet Rally Mongolia is a route offering beautiful vast landscapes, stunning scenery and an awesome natural world that people can no longer find anywhere else.
After getting numerous requests we have set our sights on Khar Nuur for 2019. The lake there has a color like nothing you have seen in this world and you feel like you could keep looking at it forever. Here is where we want to once again attack the heights of Sugawara Pass which still remains closed.
We want to go a little farther into the hilly area of sand dunes spreading out west of Uliastai. These beautiful sand dunes were discovered by helicopter in 2018 while attempting to find all kinds of varied and interesting rally routes. We will have to wait until spring before knowing a route can be carved out here or not. Though this new route will be beautiful and appealing, it certainly won’t be easy!
The organizers of this year’s rally issued the following statement at the general briefing. “Some might think that our rally is dangerous, but in the rally this year no one had to be taken to the hospital or required emergency transportation. Now that is what can be called a beautiful rally!” Beautiful is not just a word reserved for scenic landscapes. Even tire ruts can be beautiful and the traces left after a rally starts show a way to leave things that makes it hard to believe it was a bivouac or a camp spot the night before. Of course not everything went so smoothly but all participants had a trash bag with them at the bivouac. And of course if you don’t take your lunch bag trash along with you the next morning then you won’t get your next lunch. There were strict rules like using pet bottle with numbers written on the caps and you get disqualified if your number is found in litter thrown away somewhere, but those rules weren’t needed.
Well then, the most obvious trend we could see this year was use of SXS or side-by-side vehicles. A total of nine SXS vehicles took part in this rally and delivered overwhelming performance. Race vehicles were hastily grouped into SXS, AUTO and MOTO but the SXS dominated the overall wins on the victory stand. Boldbaatar achieved a grand slam by being the first person to have won in each MOTO, AUTO and SXS division.
The fighting spirit award went to Team FA-coat, and the team win went to Team Husqvarna Japan. Each of them left a deep impression in this competition. Well then what exactly is the deep impression? What did the organizer’s statement achieve? All of that will be made clear via SNS of the rally participants.
Rally Mongolia 2018 was the 24th year that this rally was held. The upcoming year 2019 will make this a quarter century rally. Among all this, the global power balance will shift, Mongolia will make amazing progress and people’s feeling about things will change yet for many centuries to come the beautiful landscape of Mongolia will still keep visitors thunderstruck.
THESE BEAUTIFUL VAST OPEN PLAINS—HOW CAN WE DESCRIBE THEM TO YOU?
On this final day we all move on our own from the bivouac and head toward the group start point. The vast plains of the Gobi Desert make you doubt your own eyes and wonder if there is any place like it on the planet. Sand is mixed into a beautiful carpet of green. From skyward it looks like brownish-green but from ground level it looks dark green.
At the start signal from a helicopter we make a racing start along the beautiful green plains, trailing a huge cloud of smoke and dust. It seems like some kind of ritual to drive away the harsh days behind us. At this final SS, #103 Nakano headed towards the final goal still beset with mechanical problems. At the parade and pre-award ceremony, when things finally quieted down after the huge racket of the champagne fight and the noise of the band, #103 quietly made it to the goal. He was treated to big cheers came from the staff who had been waiting all that time and with the finish medal hanging from his neck the rally finally came to a close. It was truly the perfect finishing touch to the rally.
「DAY OF OUR TRIUMPHANT RETURN—A DEEP AND REMAINING MEMORY」
Today is a mass group start. We race towards the shimmering heat of the great plains where our happy goal awaits! Do our lives up to now, our course up to now, and all kinds of objects and things, all add up to some kind of special feeling? On these grassy plains we probably sense and experience our own lives under the perfect starry skies of the desert.
BEAUTIFUL RIVERS, HISTORIC RUINS, A BLUE SKY LIKE OUTER SPACE!
This is ETAP7, the final stage of the rally, Today we headed for the bivouac site situated between valleys to the south of the town of Sayhan Ovoo near the group (mass) start that has become a big feature of this rally in recent years. Today’s heat makes us feel for the first time that this is really the southern Gobi desert. Here we see the sad ruins of a Tibetan Buddhist monastery called a lamasery that is a place of deep emotions. This is a place showing the extent of religious persecution by the old Soviet regime or namely communism. Why weren’t they more severely criticized for what they did here? That question haunts us as we view the ruins.
At this stage of the rally the Can-am X3 driven by Boldbattar is running perfectly and at a slightly slower pace. But the same model driven by Matsuno and Tashiro has had multiple problems that have dropped it low in the race standings. The rally through the beautiful Gobi desert this year has one day remaining. Tomorrow we will set off with a group start and make our triumphal return to Ulaanbaatar (Ulan Bator).
Leaving the bivouac we start out on the SS heading towards the dunes. The goal of today’s course was once a city of Tibetan Buddhist learning that was formerly sacred religious grounds. Over the past several years the rally has always headed to this area and is within easy walking distance yet it seems impossible to find the time to go see it. These remains are a stark reminder of religious oppression in the times since the Russian revolution. Today we face the ever-changing Gobi Desert route. This is the final phase of the rally.
SUPER GOOD WEATHER BUT WE HAVE TO GIVE UP ON SUGAWARA PASS!
Operation units were sent out on rescue missions the previous day, however all checkpoints (CP) were put on standby last night, and today we are now just waiting for the start. Along SS-1, the river just before a town on our schedule going towards the hot-spring resort Sharugen Joto on the way to Sugawara Pass had reached flood level and the water level of the river on SS-2 has also topped the water level of the day before.
These facts forced us to give up challenging the Sugawara pass again this year.
Weather conditions are unstable all over the world and over this 24 year period this time has been especially tough. Cross-country rallies all over the world must now also deal with this type of heavy rain damage.
Tomorrow we will again challenge a full-scale, full-size SS in the climax moments of the latter half of the rally.
Sugawara Pass is a name given by SSER to a mountain pass that had no previous name. Yoshimasa Sugawara said, “This place is terrific!” after traveling through the pass on his first rally here. At 3000 meters above sea level this is truly the high latitudes and seeing the ultramarine blue sky at 5000 meters or higher is enough to make you shiver. Besides Sugawara Pass, today’s SS-2 takes us toward a beautiful river and sand dunes amidst the greenery. Today is a long distance run with a rather low average time. It really pushed our caution button to the limit.
THE HIDDEN TRAP WAITING IN THE GREAT PLAINS OF THE GOBI!
A tremendously strong Siberian high pressure area has covered the Mongolian highlands. It brings a deep ultramarine blue sky stretching to the horizon. This deep blue color called the ‘Mongolian Blue’ certainly seems like something special. The rally is now in the last half. Up until now the liaisons were long and the SS were short but from this day onwards we will be challenging the full-scale, full-size version of the vast grassy plains of the Gobi. Just counting the SS alone, one day’s driving distance is more than 500 kilometers.
Also, a special feature here is that most of the route was high-speed driving where it can be tough to keep your self-control during road dual. The rain that fell on Khangai several days before, has seriously pummeled the dry great plains so that now a number of small streams have transformed into large rivers. You could say that this is a big trap appearing right in the middle of the great plains of the Gobi!
「REACHING THE NORTHERN EDGE OF THE GOBI DESERT AND PLAYING ON THE GREAT PLAINS」
Today is a loop course and we proceed carefully by navigation to the east and then to the south. The grassy plains gradually give way to the Gobi Desert and you can see a shimmering heat haze. A strange and surprising lake appears in the Gobi and the SS-1 goal is nearby. We next head to the west. We cross a river with a village nearby, proceed through a valley and once through it, drive along a high-speed piste. We keep steadily going north along the great plains heading for the finish line. Our machine is running superbly. This was definitely a super-fine day.
START OF A FULL‑ON LONG DISTANCE STAGE! BOLDBAATAR IS TOTALLY STRONG!
At last the start of consecutive SS of more than 500 kilometers in Rally Mongolia where the harsh driving in these stages is beginning to take a heavy toll on the racing machines. In this stage, the Boldbattar Can‑am is proving a strong winner in SS-2 overall with a 20 minute lead over Erdenesuren in 2ND place.
Today the rally starts amid ancient burial grounds dating back before the age of Genghis Khan that still have not been dug up. The rally machines gradually make their way downwards from the high altitude area toward the Gobi desert, driving through the outskirts of Khangai (also Hangai).
SS-2 takes place along the great grassy plains of the Gobi. The machines reach the checkpoint (CP) in a narrow area enclosed by strange lakes where the water level can drastically change in a single day. We are now back in the Gobi where a shimmering heat haze is starting to appear.
None of the Japanese rally participants have quit yet (first time ever!) and the real battle will start in the latter half of the rally from tomorrow onwards.
「THE RALLY GETS FULL-SCALE AND SERIOUS FROM HEREON!」
After leaving Khar Nuur we continue on the liason route to the city of Uliastai once a flourishing trading center up until the early days of the 20th Century and also the regional governor’s office during the Quing Dynasty rule of Mongolia. Passing right alongside the wooden bridge there called the Azure Dragon Bridge from the days of the Quing Dynasty makes us want to imagine what it was like in those times. The rally now shifts to a full-scale course. This is two SS of more than 500 kilometers and a total distance of nearly 700 kilometers. This middle stage of the rally takes both caution and fighting spirit. We have to somehow get through this stage.
The dunes of Uliastay also called Uliastai now a recent part of the rally after a gap of a few years are not only difficult to navigate but also have treacherous soft sand. However the recent rain lasting a number of days has made for easily drivable road conditions. This second SS around Khar Nuur makes a loop route and also the scene of brief victory by the Can-am group! The bivouac is an open air restaurant setup along the beautiful lakeside. Everyone feels the giddy pull of this special time that only those in the rally can know. Tomorrow will be the long-awaited start of a full-size, full-on SS.
Khar Nuur is both the start and goal. It is a one day trip only a slight distance across the sand dunes. It starts with a fun group of small sand dunes along a lake side and then transitions to a mountain area where a second small lake can be seen. The route then lures you into a large dune area. The sand there is soft and staying with the route is difficult. If you are careful and get past that point you eventually encounter a strange and surprising spring gushing up from the sand. The route then winds to the left and if you can cross the mountain a village next appears. This is the SS-1 goal. Next, the SS2 course takes you along a sandy piste, and if you keep trying and make it through a rocky area where the driving is tough, you will find yourself back at Khar Nuur which for some reason looks much more appealing on the way back. There you can enjoy a small party at the lake side under the vast expanse of outer space where the boundary between the heavens and the starry sky reflecting from the lake seem to blend into each other.
ETAP-2 13 AUG. 2018 IHTAMIR⇒KHAR NUUR L：437.89km S：96.71km TOTAL：534.60km
A COURSE JUST LIKE A DREAM!
The rally now heads westward. The valleys and rivers are beautiful enough to make you rub your eyes and wonder if this is really Mongolia as the Taiga or pine tree forest region seems to flow past. Today’s long liason and short SS of not quite 100 kilometers take us to the bivouac of Khar Nuur, the current highlight of the course. The top time is held by Toyota Tacoma #107 which still leads over the Can-am group that has shown nearly overwhelming performance since the first day of the rally. However, the Can-am group #108, #105 are in first and second place overall. Boldbaatar who is driver #105, has continually entered this race since 17 years of age, He had a mere 30 second time gap at the SS finish in this 2 day battle. Weather conditions are unstable but the beauty of Khar Nuur off in the distance is something out of this world.
「REALLY ENJOYABLE VIEWS, FORESTS AND LAKES, AND AN UNEXPECTED SWEDISH-TYPE MONGOLIA!」
Though still only the initial phase of the rally, this is a tour route like none ever seen before including valleys covered by beautiful forests of pine trees and magnificent lakes. This is a mostly paved route extending straight through the heart of Siberia. You might almost think of it as a liason route made for enjoying the scenery. The SS or special stage prepared for ETAP-2 is not very long. After next finally reaching beautiful Khar Nuur, the scenery shifts to a lakeside bivouac at the lake reflecting a spectacular starry sky.
ETAP-1 12 AUG. 2018 ULAANBAATAR⇒IHTAMIR L：295.11km S：198.80km L：8.48km TOTAL：502.39km
A SCENIC MASTERPIECE ETAP-1
Finally the rally starts and we all head west.
The heavy rain from the last several days has cut deep cracks in the grassy plains. However this also makes the beautiful deep green of the pasture land even more intense and some kind of deep feeling seems to swell up inside the rally participants.
The iron man, Yoshimasa Sugawara (77) already holds a record for taking part in this rally 20 times and is now driving with Chiho Maruyama as his new navigator.
Driving the Jimny after such a long time is deep-down fun, the navigation work is superb and the scenery a perfect sight to admire.
Today all vehicles made it to the finish before sunset. The atmosphere on arriving at the Ihtamir camp seems almost like a public festival.
The course will probably look even more appealing tomorrow. The liason will seem like a white road extending up into the sky and after running along a short SS we will reach beautiful Khar Nuur.
To find the results see the scheduled announcement given later on.
This could be the road that Genghis Khan took driven by his dreams when heading westward on his campaign to capture Samarkand and later far-away Europe hundreds of years ago! Now after those 1000 nights and days, the rally once again the rally heads westward crossing this land. That’s right, the rally heads westward. We chase the sun sinking lower over the grass prairies aiming for the farthest reaches of the Eurasian continent. On Day 1 of the rally, we leave Ulaanbaatar and head along a paved road section of the liason, The SS or special stage crosses the great grasslands and takes us over a bridge. We then drive through a village. Finally we come upon a tree-lined road spanning tranquil mountains ahead of us along with a river flowing along this beautiful land. Our goal lies just ahead of the town. We finish refueling and take the liason to the nice looking camp just in time to catch a beautiful sunset.