Dresden-Dakar-Banjul Rally: From Germany to Africa for Charity
From Germany to Africa in a modified van for charity! Egon Grainer, team leader in the business field chemical, pulp & paper at NETZSCH Pumps & Systems, and his rally partner Christian successfully took part in the 33rd Dresden-Dakar-Banjul Rally. The "Häschtechs", as their team was called, was supported by NETZSCH, among others.
Read how the "Häschtechs" experienced the rally, why they almost had to cancel at short notice and how Egon and his co-driver won the race against time at the last second.
For charity: The Dresden-Dakar-Banjul Rally
The Dresden-Dakar-Banjul Rally is no ordinary race whose primary focus is winning. The competition, organised by Breitengrad e.V., focuses on improving the living conditions of people in Gambia. The teams travel in their converted cars from Germany via France, Spain, Morocco, Mauritania and Senegal to Gambia. After the trip, the cars are auctioned off for charity. The money raised supports school, medical and social projects in Gambia. The commitment aims to enable people to help themselves. Various apprenticeships, such as carpentry, mechanics, mechatronics, baking or schooling programs, are provided to sustainably contribute to the local people. NETZSCH also pursues a sustainable approach. As a global specialist in handling complex media, NETZSCH has made it its goal to contribute to a better world with its innovative pumping solutions. This is another reason why it was obvious that the world market leader in the field of progressing cavity pumps would support its employee in his project.
Initial starting problems for the "Häschtechs
Egon and Christian had been intensively planning their participation in the rally for almost three years. After the race had to be cancelled due to the corona pandemic, the time finally came in 2023. They were sure that nothing and no one could stop them this time. And yet they had to accept the first bitter setback even before the start. When they wanted to drive off with the car after more than a year's standstill, they noticed that the servo steering was broken, the vehicle was making strange noises, and it had no power. Disillusionment soon set in at the garage. The injection nozzles and the power pump were damaged. To make matters worse, only two of the three nozzles could be loosened. Now they had to wait and see if they would make it in time. Fortunately, after more than a week of sweaty work, the third nozzle could be removed and replaced - nothing more stood in the way of a start. The "Häschtechs" started the race three days late, and they had to catch up as quickly as possible to ensure they didn't miss the ferry in Spain. "We drove 2,700 kilometres to Malaga in 27 hours to catch the ferry. Alternately, one of us slept, and the other drove", Egon reports.
Arrival in Spain: Will Egon and Christian reach the ferry?
As if the starting difficulties hadn’t caused enough trouble, the next problem arose when they arrived in Spain: The gear lever fell through empty. But the "Häschtechs" were prepared. Still, on the motorway, they were able to solve the problem with the help of some tape - but will it last the remaining 4,500 kilometres? No one could know this at the time. After all, the two reached the ferry just in time. They sailed across the Strait of Gibraltar with the other teams in fantastic weather and enjoyed the sun on their van. Arriving in Morocco, they explored different cities like Rabat and Marrakesh. "The landscape and the cities in Morocco were awe-inspiring", Egon beams.
Through Morocco to Mauritania and into the desert for five days
On day nine of the rally, Egon and Christian reached the Mauritanian border and got their first cultural clash. "The border was a small room with 20 square metres, two couches, two old computers and more than 20 people, but luckily the crossing into Mauritania went relatively smoothly for us", says Egon. Immediately after the border, the convoy turned off into the Sahara for the next five days, where camels crossed their path. Equipped with plenty of drinking water, fruit and other miscellaneous essentials, they headed far away from civilisation for several days. They lived and slept in the van at single-digit temperatures at night and up to 30 degrees Celsius during the day, and Egon was impressed by the starry sky in the desert. The desert was very littered, and plastic everywhere had washed up from the beaches and was carried inland by the wind. This left a very negative impression on Egon. After the time in the desert, the convoy drove along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean at low tide and enjoyed the view. It was essential to keep enough distance between the water and the dunes, which most participants managed well. And, oh wonder, the makeshift gearstick withstood the endurance test.
Will the gearstick work for the final stages in Senegal and Gambia?
After five days of desert fun in the Sahara, another outdoor night and a clean-up campaign in which a part of the beach was cleared of rubbish, the convoy reached Nouakchott. Back in civilisation, the cars and drivers were freed from the Sahara sand, and the town was visited. The next day, the route continued through the national park towards Saint Louis in Senegal. The way led along narrow, holey roads, through scurrying crowds, past giggling children sitting together in front of houses, small shops, snack bars, decrepit vehicles, horse-drawn carriages, donkey carts, goats, sheep and finally to the not-so-good-smelling fish port. "Whether it's Mauritania, Senegal or Gambia, children everywhere cheer for you and hope you have brought something for them", Egon describes. "A single football can bring huge joy to hundreds of children here." After a day of rest in Saint Louis, the journey continued over dusty tracks in the Sahel towards the destination of Banjul in Gambia. Twenty days after the rally's start, the "Häschtechs" finally reached their destination - without further problems or breakdowns. "Thanks to everyone who supported us in various ways before and during the rally - without you, this would never have been possible", says Egon.
Auction and visits to charity projects in Gambia
After arriving in Banjul, the rally cars were auctioned off, and some of the organisation's projects, such as a school, the bakery and the Blue Kitchen restaurant, were visited. In total, the auction raised no less than 5,094,000 Dalasi (€78,370), which will be used for sustainable projects in Gambia, thus enabling the local people to live a better life. "The most impressive aspect for me was to see how happy the people are, even though they live in such poor conditions. I can well imagine participating in the rally again. While this trip was also about having fun, if I were to do another rally, I would take many more relief supplies with me to give to the people to make a small contribution to a better world", Egon Grainer concluded.