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Last Updated: Friday, 26 December, 2003, 13:36 GMT
Banger drivers head for Sahara
by Laura Smith-Spark
BBC News Online

Andy and Paul Camsell with the Desert Prats Panda
The car will have to survive a 3,000-mile trip, a desert and a minefield
Trusting your safety to a car worth 75 seems foolhardy at the best of times - let alone for a trip taking in two continents and the Sahara Desert.

But two brothers from East Sussex are setting off on Boxing Day for what should be the drive of a lifetime - in a clapped-out Fiat Panda they were given to scrap.

Andy and Paul Camsell, both from Crowborough, have signed up for the Plymouth-Dakar Rally 2004 in the hope of raising 10,000 for charity.

While the famous Paris-Dakar rally is seen as the ultimate test for man and machine, the Plymouth version is a challenge for bangers that have seen better days.

I just thought it would be great fun to do
Paul Camsell

The racers will drive 3,000 miles from the UK's south coast to the west coast of Africa in 20 days as they head for the Sahara Desert.

The rules state competing cars must cost less than 100 and, once the rally is under way, no outside support, mechanics or back-up trucks are allowed.

The brothers admit their participation in the rally - under the name Desert Prats - all began as a harebrained idea in the pub.

Air-conditioning engineer Paul, 24, said: "I just thought it would be great fun to do. When you get there, the car gets given to charity, as well as all our tools and our spares.

Paul and Andy Camsell
The pair hope to raise 10,000 for charities in Africa

"Everything we cannot carry home in the aeroplane gets given away to be sold."

The Camsell brothers are to donate their vehicle directly to a school and pharmacy in the Gambian village Nyofelleh.

They have set up a link between the village's children and pupils at Sir Henry Fermor CE Primary School in Crowborough, where father-of-three Andy, 34, is a parent governor.

The computer engineer said it would be hard to be away for so long from daughters Lucy, nine, Harriet, four, and two-year-old Elizabeth.


"My first thought was it's a huge adventure - but now it's coming round I just think it's three weeks away from the family," he said.

But he hopes people will log on to their website to follow their progress and donate much-needed money to the cause.

Their route starts in Plymouth, heads across France and Spain to Gibraltar, and then down through Morocco, the Sahara, Mauritania, Senegal and Gambia.

The brothers are confident their vehicle, a 1989 Fiat Panda Sisley 4x4 Special Edition, will last the course.

The Desert Prats Panda
The car has been modified with sand ladders and security grills

Nicknamed the Dakar Destroyer, it has been modified with specially made ladders to help them extricate the car from soft sand, grills over the windows for security and a tuneful air horn.

The pair will travel through the desert in a group of five vehicles, one of which carries a guide to help them through the most daunting part of the trip.

Paul said: "At the border of Mauritania and the Sahara, there's seven miles of minefield which we have to have a guide to get through.

"Apparently you can see a burnt out Land Rover where it went off the beaten track and that was it."

The brothers are one of 141 teams taking part in the event - only the second to be held.

Paul said: "I'm looking forward to getting under way because it's been so much to think about, sorting the car out and so on, and now it's coming together.

"Once we've gone, that's it - no more panicking."

Wacky racers head for desert
19 Dec 03  |  Devon
Bath men rally to charitable cause
28 Jan 03  |  England

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