‘Postman Pat van’ heads to Iran as team drive 10,000 miles across 20 countries and three deserts for charity

02 May 2018

A team of friends will take ‘Nancy’, a van styled on the famous TV postal van, from London to Ulan Ude, Siberia, as part of the notoriously gruelling Mongol Rally.

Team at Curborough

Team at Curborough

Dan Gillett, who lives in Finchley, London, has been preparing for the renowned challenge for months with his girlfriend Flo Gillingham and friends Katie Shipp, Dan Bradley and Sam Thornton ready for the start of the rally in July. They are doing this in support of Alzheimer’s Research UK and the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust as well as Mongol Rally’s chosen charity, Cool Earth.

Dan was inspired to support Alzheimer’s Research UK as two of his great aunts, Nancy and Joan, died with dementia and the team has chosen to honour his aunt Nancy by naming the van after her.

The 26-year-old said:

“My great aunty Joan used to make all our birthday cakes and knitted my first school jumper and we realised there was something wrong when she struggled to make her youngest great nephew’s christening gown. Meanwhile my great aunty Nancy, who we would visit as a family in Scotland, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and sadly passed away in July 2013, so it’s fitting that we are doing this challenge five years later in her name.”

Dan admitted that signing up to take on the Mongol Rally was just one of several big decisions he made last year as part of “an ongoing quarter-life crisis”.

He said:

“I learned to fly, I changed my job and bought a silly car. I watch Top Gear and thought I couldn’t do the challenges they do but had heard about the Mongol Rally and thought ‘I’ve got to do that’. So we signed up in October last year and paid the £625 admission for a team of four.”

Since signing up the team have been working around the rules of the challenge: they had to buy a ‘farcically unsuitable’ car under 1.2litres and are recommended not to spend more than £500 on it – they chose a 996cc 1997 Suzuki Wagon R, which has no air conditioning, perfect for days spent in the desert!



The team of five will also be effectively relaying throughout the route – joining and leaving the rally during different legs of the five-week journey so there will always be three people in the car. The two Dans and Flo will tackle the three weeks of desert driving from Armenia to Siberia.

He explained that they have to complete the 10,044-mile rally across 20 countries, three deserts and several mountain ranges completely unaided by the organisers though they can ask for help from locals if they break down, get lost or run out of fuel, food or water along the way. Dan added that they have no mechanical experience, and some didn’t even have valid driving licenses when they signed up to take part.

They had the choice of three rough routes, and with five weeks to complete it in they chose the southern route which passes through Iran. They are required to undertake a seven-day Government sanctioned tour to pass through the country and a convoy of 20 of the 400 teams taking on the Mongol Rally will undertake this route.

Dan said:

“We’ve not only been preparing for the rally in recent weeks, which includes sorting out visas and checking the car is road worthy, we’ve also been busy trying to hit our fundraising target of £3,000 for Alzheimer’s Research UK and our other two charities and we are delighted to say we’ve smashed that target and have just hit £3,700 through various events including a quiz and raffle draw, and we have more planned over the coming weeks to raise even more!”

To find out more about their mammoth challenge and to sponsor Nancy and the team visit: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-display/showROFundraiserPage?userUrl=NancyDrivesToSiberia&isTeam=true

Christie Hyland, Regional Fundraising Officer at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

“We are so grateful to Dan and the team for choosing to support us as one of their chosen charities as they are helping to fund vital research into the diseases that cause dementia.

“We can’t wait to follow their journey with Nancy and wish them the best of luck for the biggest road trip of their lives!”

If you’d like to take on your own adventure why not take on the famous Machu Picchu trek for Alzheimer’s Research UK: https://alzheimersresearchuk.org/event/trek-machu-picchu/

For further information about Alzheimer’s Research UK, or to find out more about fundraising for the charity, call 0300 111 5555 or visit www.alzheimersresearchuk.org