Great Escape for neglected Subaru

A CERN engineer has just come back from a challenge of a lifetime. Together with two friends he drove 4000 miles in a car they found abandoned in a car park at CERN.

The Up N Atom rally team began their adventure outside the Globe in January.

If you’ve ever wondered what happens to the abandoned cars that litter the car parks of CERN the answer, for one at least, could be stranger than you think. This January, an old red Subaru that had been sitting in a car park for two years made it all the way to the Gambia – with a little help from a CERN engineer!

David Mcfarlane, who works in TS-LEA, and two friends from the UK have just returned from the Banjul Rally, a 4,000 mile race through Europe and North Africa. The team, appropriately named the "Up N Atoms", set off from outside the Globe on 4 January and crossed France, Spain, Morocco, the Western Sahara, Mauritania and Senegal before finally ending up in Banjul, the Gambia.

A condition of the three-week rally was that the teams must drive a car that cost almost nothing. David negotiated a price of just 250 CHF for the team’s Subaru and fixed it up with the help of the CERN Automobile Club.

Although David explains that he has a love of ‘doing stupid things’ and also found inspiration from the TV documentary "The Long Way Round" with Ewan McGregor, there was also a more serious motivation for the trip. An old friend of the team died of cancer in August 2007, and the rally aimed to raise funds for Cancer Research UK. So far they have collected over 16,000 CHF through sponsorship.

The biggest challenge of the trip was making sure the car survived the punishing route, which includes snow, deserts and minefields. The desert in particular was very tricky, the Up N Atom’s car being the only one in the rally that didn’t get stuck in the sand. For David, however, that part of the trip was the most memorable. "I loved it. When you get on top of a sand dune you can’t see another person for 360 degrees. When things go wrong you become very aware of your vulnerability. You are in the middle of nowhere and you can’t just walk to the next village for help."

The car was sold at the finish line to raise money for local charities. You can still sponsor the team by going to: