Part adventure, part charity fundraiser, the 17,000km rally from London to Ulan-Ude in Russia via Mongolia, has no designated route and no overall winner.
There are limited rules — teams must travel in a small, cheap car, they cannot have a support vehicle and they must raise at least $2300 for charity. There are about 300 teams participating this year.
The trio have worked out their likely route and expect to travel through 20 countries.
‘‘Our goal is fly halfway round the world to drive a quarter of it back,’’ Mr Ruffell said.
They left yesterday to pick up their car in London ready for the race start at the Goodwood motorsport circuit, near London, on July 16. The 2000 VW Polo purchased by a cousin of Mr von Tunzelman’s for £500 was the newest car any of them ever owned, they joked.
But the rally is punishing. Many cars break down and it is up to the teams to fix them or arrange to have them removed.
So will the Polo last the distance?
‘‘It should do,’’ Ms Cahill said.
‘‘It might do,’’ Mr von Tunzelman said.
‘‘It has to,’’ Mr Ruffell said.
As the team’s mechanic, it will be Mr Ruffell’s job to carry out repairs along the way.
‘‘I’m taking duct tape… and a few tools,’’ he said.
At the end of the race the Polo would make the trip all over again in reverse, they said. A friend had arranged to fly to the finish line and drive it back to London.
‘‘He is thinking of doing the rally next year. He gets a free car and all our maps and camping gear and we don’t have to pay to put it on the train and transport it back to London,’’ Ms Cahill said.
There is no set time limit for completing the rally.
‘‘The fastest anyone has done it in is 11 days, the slowest is two years,’’ Ms Cahill said.
The official finish line remains in place for about six weeks and the friends are aiming to finish within that time so they can get a photograph of themselves with officials.
They also have another time limit — they have booked tickets on a train from Ulan-Ude to Vladivostock and a plane home.
The trio, who have raised $2,865.40 for charity, said they planned to enjoy the journey, whatever happened.
‘‘We will have our moments, but it will be fun,’’ Mr von Tunzelman said.