Scots rally drivers feared death in Turkey

Dave, Muir and Josh in Bosnia. Pictures: Deadline
Dave, Muir and Josh in Bosnia. Pictures: Deadline
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THREE Scots feared for their lives after they stumbled into a warzone during a 10,000-mile rally race across a desert at night.

Dave Munroe was travelling through Turkey when disaster almost struck his Mongol Rally team.

Camping in Uzbekistan

Camping in Uzbekistan

Camping in the desert one night, the trio ignored “fizzing sounds” they thought were fireworks. Shortly afterwards, Dave stumbled out of his tent to see both teammates kneeling half-naked in front of armed soldiers.

The terrified trio from Berwickshire discovered that they were in the middle of the battle zone between Turkish government forces and Kurdish rebels.

The Turkish army, fearing the Scots were rebels, had fired warning shots over the tent and then moved in with machine guns and armoured vehicles.

Fortunately, the team got away with a severe reprimand from army commanders and stern advice to spend future evenings in the safety of town.

The three men - Mr Munroe, 25, from Greenlaw, Muir Gibb, 26, from Duns and Josh Hebdon, 25, from Leitholm - were roughly halfway through the Rally which saw them travel 10,000 miles from the south of England to Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia.

Despite travelling in a clapped-out Nissan Micra, their journey had ran relatively smoothly until they reached Turkey, where the army was on high alert.

The trio wrongly thought they would be safer spending the night in a secluded campsite, rather than finding a room in town.

Mr Munroe said: “We were travelling through an area where in the days before there had been a suicide bombing by Kurdish rebels.

“We thought, to be a bit safer, we wouldn’t stay in a town but we’d drive out a little way, get off the track and camp.

“So we got out there, and we started getting the tents set up, when I hear this fizzing sound go over my head - it was just like a firework but without the bang at the end.

“I said to the other two that something was up, but they weren’t having it.

“I was just drifting off when I heard something else, and I pull open my tent to see all this sudden bright light everywhere, and Josh and Muir, nearly naked, kneeling outside their tents.

“There are these soldiers everywhere with big machine guns, and this guy, obviously their boss, gets out of a massive armoured vehicle.”

The man spoke English and the Scots were able to explain the situation before they were sent on their way.

They eventually managed to make it to the Mongolian capital, with the help of miniature bottles of whisky used as border bribes.

When they reached Ulan Bator they found out that news of their encounter had already made them famous among other teams.

Mr Munroe added: “It was fantastic to get legend status on the Mongol Rally straight away like that.

“It was great to see all these different cultures and the way people live in different countries.”

The three lads raised over £1,000 throughout the journey, which they donated to charity once they had completed the mammoth distance.

Their trusty car was passed onto another trio who were looking for a cheap way to explore the country.

Mr Gibb and Mr Hebdon continued their travels to Beijing and New Zealand, while Mr Munroe returned to Edinburgh where he now lives.

The incident took place in July just outside the Turkish city of Dogubeyazit which is in a Kurdish-speaking area in the far east of the country and very close to the border with Iran.

Days before the trio arrived, a Kurdish suicide bomber blew up a local police station, placing the Turkish army on high alert.