Budapest Bamako Rally Underway: Tesla from Croatia First Electric Car Across Sahara?

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The 2018 Budapest to Bamako Rally kicked off on January 12, 2018, with the usual array of crazy vehicles. And a new addition – the first electric car attempting to make it across the Sahara. TCN joined Team Tesla – RWE for the beginning of what will be a fascinating (and possibly record-breaking) 16 days. 

I hear lots of crazy ideas living in Croatia. I sometimes wonder if this country has more crazy ideas per capita than any other.

I blame the rakija.

Sometimes, however, the crazy ideas may still seem crazy in the cold light of a sober day, but some of them have a cool factor with a ‘what if?’ factor. Ideas like being the first people to drive an electric car through the Sahara, for example. 

To put the insanity of the idea in simple numbers, the maximum range of a Tesla on full charge is around 400 kilometres. Crossing the Sahara Desert from north to south is at least 1400 km. There are not many Tesla super charging stations in the Sahara. Or anything else, for that matter. 

A crazy idea from two crazy, but very successful Croats, Sasa Cvetojevic and Oleg Mastruko. 

You can learn more detail about how they plan to complete the 2018 Budapest to Bamako Rally, which this year will take almost 8,500km and a planned 16 days, ending in Banjul in Gambia, in the video interview I did with them last month. 


It was too good an opportunity to miss, and as I lived on the road from Zagreb to Budapest, I thought I would hitch a ride with them to watch the start of the rally (and also be the last person to see them alive in Croatia). 


The family came to the Varazdin motorway junction to check out this wondrous vehicle from the future, although I suspect my daughters were more interested to meet these two crazy guys who thought they could cross the Sahara in an electric car. 


All roads lead to Budapest, and it was a pleasure to spend a few hours in the back seat listening to the detailed planning of these two crazy guys. I was almost beginning to think they were going to make it. 


In an early sign of the unpredictability of the journey ahead, a quick recharge at a Tesla Hungarian charging station revealed a station closed for maintenance. All was soon resolved and the essential charging took place, but my mind could not help fast forwarding 10 days to recharging options in Mauritania…


Final preparations with some morning refreshments – these guys really have planned every detail they can – I just fear that there is so much that is unknown. 


We arrived in Budapest in good time for the 14:00 start, taking our place among a various assortment of weird and wonderful vehicles, who all seemed to have one thing in common, which we didn’t – lots of spare tyres, mostly on the roof. It was at this point that Sasa and Oleg pointed out that they would be travelling with a support vehicle. They were smarter than they looked.


Serious 4 x 4 Jeeps, ready for the harshest African terrain – how would our precious Tesla compare?


Some of the racing cars were truly astonishing, and I was not sure that this little Subaru would even make it out of Budapest, never mind across the Sahara. 


I was soon proved wrong, as Team Tesla passed the Subaru on the motorway. 


Budapest traffic had some colourful additions. 


Team Tesla was one of three Croatian teams competing in the rally. This is the Rally Dogs car, and you can learn more about the MyLife4Kids team in this TCN interview by Andrea Pisac.


The Tesla Dream Team. Sasa (middle) and Oleg (right) were joined by Czech national Tomas Konvička, who will be driving the support car.


Of all the cars on display, the one that caught the most attention had just arrived from Zagreb. 


Sasa and Oleg had a busy time catching up with their fellow Croatian rally drivers… 


… and dealing with the considerable local and media interest in the Tesla contestant.


Really not a bad way to travel from Zagreb to Budapest. From Morocco to the Gambia, time will tell.


These crazy Croats had definitely inspired a number of people even before they set off, but I don’t think my daughters are giving them much chance of success…


Shortly after 2pm and some speeches, the rally began, with each car showcased and introduced. This was the first one off the blocks. 


Perhaps the most stylish departure was made by these Brits.


And it was not just a rally for four-wheeled vehicles.

Finally, the stage was set. Entrance and departure of Team Tesla (see video above).


And in a flash they were gone – destination Banjul, some 16  days from now. Will they make it? If they do, they will be the first electric car across the Sahara. We wish them well and will be following and reporting on progress once they hit Africa. You can follow Team Tesla – RWE on Facebook, as well as the wider Budapest to Bamako Rally


Apart from seeing my friends off on their historic attempt, there was another big advantage to taking the drive north – an evening in the wonderful Hungarian capital. But that is another story. 


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