The story of the iconic dystopian movie “Mad Max” is well known. In a post-apocalyptic barbarian world, we follow a former policeman drifting through the Wasteland in heavily-modified vehicles. In the 1970s and 1980s, Mel Gibson portrayed Max Rockatansky. In 2015 “Fury Road”, Tom Hardy took over the role. A couple of years later, Alexey Gubarev (43) stars in a real-life cinematic experience of his own – the MadWay Rally.
In silence, far away from mainstream media, this Russian-born Cypriot started crafting Mad Max-style battle cars in 2018, taking his fearless comrades on yearly rides to the edges of society. Exploring the closest one could get to the post-apocalyptic dreamscape, they blasted their way to the wilderness of Mongolia and Russia, often to places where no human has stepped before.
“I love strange destinations”, Alexey tells me. “For instance, I liked your article on pink lakes, I bookmarked some things I have to visit myself! You have cool articles on Pipeaway.”
Describing himself as “the biggest fan of Mad Max worldwide”, Alexey Gubarev leads fellow businessmen on fury-road rides to the fringes of civilization
Alexey’s affinity toward the unusual and his expeditions to desolate landscapes are just a glimpse of discovery his distant uncle, Soviet cosmonaut Aleksei Aleksandrovič Gubarev, must have experienced on space missions in the 1970s.
A boy born in the icy clutches of 1980 Siberia dreamed of becoming an astronaut too, but life was hard, and poverty grounded his fantasies.
After relocating to the sunny shores of Cyprus in 2002, Alexey Gubarev started building his name in the IT sector. He launched a successful Servers.com hosting company, also invested in AI start-ups such as Prisma and Lensa apps, and eventually founded Palta, a technology company focused on health and well-being.
The accumulated fortune enabled expanding the horizons, and Alexey opted for exploring the yet unseen. Describing himself as “the biggest fan of Mad Max worldwide”, he built upon the ideas of his good acquaintants George Miller and Doug Mitchell, leading fellow businessmen on fury-road rides to the fringes of civilization.
In July, they returned from their latest pit stop in Kyrgyzstan, where armored cars brought joy to locals, and even caught the attention of the country’s President Sadyr Japarov.
“We realized that kids from small villages are the most thankful. Our passing by may be one of the biggest events in their life. They have these big eyes, really happy about seeing us”, the roadmaster Alexey warmly recalls.
How did mutant machines manage to stay beneath the radar all these years? In an exclusive grand interview about MadWay Rally, this Russian-Cypriot entrepreneur and philanthropist for the first time openly talks about his passion for post-apocalyptic cruisers, views on what makes life worth living, and the always-threatening end of days.
Before reading the interview, peek into MadWay Rally’s most recent adventure in Kyrgyzstan on Pipeaway’s Youtube channel!
From frozen Siberia to sunny Cyprus
You grew up in Irkutsk Oblast, in southeastern Siberia, where temperatures are below zero for half of the year. How would you describe your childhood, your growing up?
You have to understand that, when you don’t have anything to compare it with, you’re happy with what you have. When I was young, I was walking to school at minus 45 degrees Celsius. And it was normal. In the wintertime, we would have minus 50, minus 55. The minimum I experienced in my life was minus 63.
At the first school, when I was four, I would be walking on foot. There was maybe a one-kilometer walk. When I went to high school, it was maybe four kilometers. I would usually go by bus.
And you know why we would be walking to the school until minus 45? Because after minus 45, the diesel fuel in the pipes freezes, and you cannot go. That’s the reason. (laughter)
But in general, it was okay. We were happy kids. When it gets minus 47 and you don’t go to school, you just play outside. I was playing hockey when I was young.
It was cold, it was really cold. But if you are born there, you become used to it.
I moved to Cyprus 21 years ago, and I think I had enough cold. That part of my life is finished. When I left Russia, the cold part stayed there. In Cyprus, the weather is much better.
Indeed, Cyprus is a country with a radically warmer climate. But surely the reason for emigrating was not just the weather?
There were a few reasons. My first child was born in Russia. But when she was one year old, there was a really unsafe climate, it was criminal, it wasn’t easy. I’m speaking about the 2000s. I didn’t feel safe. I started making money at that time and saw it as an opportunity to move outside of Russia, to get a better life. This was what I needed.
In 2002, I moved with my family to Cyprus and eventually stayed here. I built big companies, and now I live here for a very long time. Two of my kids are already born in Cyprus, and for me, it became home. When you live in one place for over 20 years, it’s like a home country.
Accents and identities
Your three children lived their entire lives in Cyprus. Do they speak Russian?
My kids speak Russian because of the family. They also speak Greek, but the main language in Cyprus is English because it was an ex-British colony. And the kids speak better English than Russian.
My four-years-younger sister moved to Australia in 2003, where she lived and worked. Later she moved to Canada, and after nine years there, she returned home to Sydney. And now she speaks Russian with an English accent! A person that was born in Russia, after 20 years of living outside, starts speaking Russian with an accent! (laughter)
Soon you will be living in the Mediterranean longer than you lived in Siberia. Do you consider yourself more of a Russian or a Cypriot?
Because of all my business here, all my life, I consider myself a Cypriot. I didn’t even finish the university in Russia when I moved. I did a lot of stuff in Cyprus. With my friends, I created the biggest technology association. For me, Cyprus is like home. When we moved here, we didn’t even visit Russia for the first five years.
From code to cold – unplugging on the ice
In a way, your MadWay Rally project is your return to the wilderness of Eastern and Central Asia. You passed from Mongolia, via Lake Baikal and the Altai Mountains, to Kyrgyzstan. What inspired you to start this unusual journey in 2018?
You know, the first rally was actually in 2017.
The world has become too digital. My company is an IT business. What does that mean? I have this phone with me 18 hours a day. I have a computer another 16. In this world, you have so much information around you, and I was thinking I have to do something to relax my mind, just to change what I’m seeing.
In 2016, I saw some British guys doing The Ice Run, on old Russian motorbikes, Ural sidecar motorcycles. In wintertime, they did a rally on the frozen Lake Baikal, on motorbikes with sidecars. But they did it in a survival way. They gave you a motorbike, something to sleep on the ice, and you went by yourself and had to finish the race without any support. You only got support if you called on the radio, but it would be shameful to call because you kind of lost it then. They did this race for ex-military guys and everybody who wanted to train themselves.
I thought it was a good idea, but I just wanted to add some pragmatic stuff: you have to have hot food, warm clothes, somewhere to sleep that is not ice… And I decided I would do something like that.
In 2017, I did the first rally on ice, with motorbikes, in a similar style, but with a little bit more comfort. I brought yurts from Mongolia, with heating and a nice atmosphere inside. We did 700 kilometers on ice.
Battling blizzards and bikes
How many of you were there on this pre-rally?
We were nine, seven men and two women, one of which was my wife. From all nine, it was only me who drove a motorbike with a sidecar before and one guy who drove a motorbike. Seven people had no motorbike experience at all.
We trained them for three and a half hours on how to drive it, and the next day we started a rally on the frozen lake. This was a little bit dangerous, but we managed to do it. It was really difficult, one of the most difficult experiences of my life.
There was a snowstorm, at minus 35, the wind brought over 20 centimeters of snow, and that makes it very hard for the bike to move. You stop and start again, stop, and start again… It was unbelievable.
One day, we started at 9 o’clock in the morning, and we were supposed to finish this day at 5 o’clock in the evening. But because of the snowstorm, we finished at the destination at 2 o’clock at night. People were so tired. I was never tired as much as on this day.
You cannot stop it, because you have to go to this place. Otherwise, you would just freeze in the middle of the lake. It was really a nice experience to see your limits.
The birth of MadWay Rally – Mad Max meets Mongolia
How did the 2018 rally in Mongolia, with Mad Max-style modified cars, come about?
The people who helped us organize the motorbike event told us they also do expeditions in Mongolia. They showed me the photos, and it looked really cool.
On the way back home, on the plane, I was watching “Skiptrace”, a movie with Jackie Chan, in which he travels by train from Irkutsk through Mongolia to China. It looked amazing, and I thought maybe we could do Mongolia. But Mongolia is a very big country. You cannot go by motorbike, it would be really problematic.
I was also a big fan of “Mad Max”, the movie, the concept, and the idea. And I said, let’s try to do it in Mad Max style. And this is how the idea of the MadWay Rally in Mongolia was born. It started from the 2017 rally.
I gave the task to build the first car. We did it. It looked nice. We built another four. By September 2018, we had nine cars, two buggies, two bikes, and one truck in Mad Max style. And we did 1,200 kilometers in 10 days in Mongolia. Completely isolated, in the middle of nowhere.
How was it?
It was not so easy because it was the first such big expedition I organized, and a lot of crazy and unbelievable things happened. When you do something so big for the first time, there are always problems and unexpected things.
For example, we started with nine cars, two buggies, and two bikes. We finished the whole rally with five cars. The rest was broken, completely broken. We were lucky to finish even with five cars!
The cars were breaking every day, as you go to places where nobody drove before you. We were going to the middle of nowhere. And this was really, really not an easy task.
The nearest city and petrol station were 300-400 kilometers away. You had to have your own water, your own petrol, your own people, your own food. You had to be completely independent in every way. But we managed, we came back, knock on wood, nothing happened, which I was really worried about.
From that time, we tried to do it every year.
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The road less traveled
Still, you skipped a couple of years…
We missed the year 2020 because of Covid. I prepared the expedition in Bolivia, South America, the cars were already on the way there, and everything was organized. But when the pandemic started in February, I asked to return the cars, in the middle of the journey to Bolivia. They sent them back to a regional location, and we managed to stop the race because nobody could go anywhere.
Another year we lost was 2022, because of the war with Ukraine of course. I was super busy, I had no time to do anything. I had a big office in Dnipropetrovsk, with 250 people, and it was really problematic.
Basically, the idea is that every year we do a new country, and never a developed one. The style of the rally is about going somewhere really wild. This year, it was Kyrgyzstan.
We were thinking of making another rally in middle Asia next year, and then we plan to move to Africa. It is the best spot for Mad Max. The environment there, desert, number of people per square kilometer…
Another reason to move there is that “Mad Max: Fury Road” movie was filmed in Namibia in 2013. When George Miller and Doug Mitchell started shooting “Mad Max” in Australia, it was the first time in a long dry period that the rainy season came to the middle of the desert. The desert became green, and they couldn’t shoot the movie there. You cannot film “Mad Max” in a green environment. They decided to send all cars and crew to Namibia to shoot there.
People ask us why we cannot come to modern countries. But what can I do in Switzerland? They would not even allow me to drive on the road. The cars are so modified that nobody would allow them on a normal road in Europe.
They wouldn’t pass the technical exam!
Not even one. (laughter)
It’s logical. When you are doing something extreme, you have to go to the countries that are more isolated.
Navigating from breakfast to breakdowns
Paint us a picture of a typical MadWay Rally… How long does it last? Do you sleep in the cars? Do you eat on the road? How do you ensure the safety of the participants? Are you truly a self-reliable convoy?
The rally usually takes 10 days.
We have our own chefs who cook for us. Half of the time, we skip lunch, because it’s a difficult place, but there’s always breakfast and dinner.
We always stay in villages where we find hotels, if possible. If it’s not possible, we build small camps for us, we bring tents and entire facilities. We never sleep in cars, because it’s not good, but also during the night, mechanics do maintenance on cars, because the race is difficult.
Regarding safety, we have three special technical teams, two are going with us, one is going in front of us. In case something happens, the problem can be fixed on the way. If it’s not possible, we move people out of the car, leave the car with the technical team, continue going, and they bring the car in the evening when they fix it.
Also, because we are in such remote locations, we have satellite phones, a radio, and we always have a doctor with us. It’s really organized in a safe way. Usually, we have an agreement with helicopters that, if something happens, they have to come within 45 minutes, wherever we are. We usually organize it with the hosting country that they have this facility to help us in case of emergency.
But in general, we try to depend on ourselves, because you never know what can happen.
Alexey Gubarev’s car affair, from sidecars to supercars
Were you always into cars?
I was. Do you know why am I passionate about cars? Till 1994, we only had a motorbike with a sidecar. If you don’t have money, you cannot afford to buy a car.
In 1994, my family bought their first car. In 1993, my family bought a computer for me. We got a computer earlier than a car. My mother still believes it was the smartest decision in their life.
But I was always a big fan of cars, especially when you start to have money to buy them. I have a really big collection of cars myself, a huge one. And the rally is a part of that.
How many cars do you own?
Wow, you have a car in every country of the world?
No, most of them are in Cyprus. My main collection is of classic cars from the 1920s and 1930s. It’s really a big collection, and I will open a museum one day for that. If you ever decide to come to Cyprus, I can show you some cars. It’s the biggest collection of cars in this region.
I like cars. I’m a big fan of them. I have a lot of sports cars as well. And a huge collection of MadWay stuff.
MadWay Rally’s vehicle conversion workshop
How did the conversions of vehicles happen, and who can even do it besides “Mad Max” movie designers?
We are doing it ourselves. I met Mad Max guys long after I started a car race. I had my people in Russia making them, and when the war started, I moved them to Kyrgyzstan. Since the war, I am not going to Russia myself. We moved everything from there, and do it in Kyrgyzstan now.
We are not trying to copy Mad Max. We did our own design which is completely differentAlexey Gubarev
Every year, I am building 3-4 new cars. For the team, their yearly job is doing maintenance of existing vehicles, and also building new cars. Some cars are retiring, and we’re updating the fleet every year.
How many of these Wasteland-style vehicles do you have now?
Eighteen cars, three buggies, two bikes, and two trucks.
And which is your favorite?
Well, we have some new ones now, which are Evacuators, I like them a lot, they are very cool. We have two special vehicles that are transporting our bikes on highways, I like those too.
Each car has a unique design. We are not trying to copy Mad Max. We did our own design which is completely different.
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Bridging fantasy and reality
How hard is it with coming up with a design that is not just Instagram-worthy, but also functional?
I’ll give you an example. In “Mad Max”, they have a Gigahorse, a double Cadillac with two 8 engines inside, so V16, which they created. But the problem is that it is too wide. If you’re going on an off-road rally, you cannot drive it because it’s too big.
We have a huge limitation to go wide. You cannot copy Mad Max cars and do it completely crazy because the places you are visiting, this car cannot go.
We are a little bit more practical. It is different building cars for the movie, and building cars for the real-life rally, where you have to do over 1,000 kilometers.
How do you transport these cars to the rally location?
Between countries, we ship them, or we send them by lorry. The first time we moved cars from Siberia to Kyrgyzstan, it took them 9 days by lorry. You need to organize special paperwork.
Basically, we moved them out of Russia, because we will never go back till the war finishes, and we needed to create special documents to export the cars out of the country. It was really problematic, but finally, we managed, we did it.
Now we are building another three cars. Each time they design it, I am consulted about two cars, while one car they design on their own, and I will see it only when I arrive. Basically, I give my workers freedom. They can do whatever they want. It’s a surprise for people that are going with me because they don’t know what they will build each year, but even I keep it as a surprise for myself.
Disconnecting to reconnect
Can you describe the feelings you experience while driving these cars?
Life has become too typical. Every day, you know what you are doing. And there, you come, you don’t know what to expect, you don’t know what you’ll see, what will happen. I like unpredictable things.
The problem of our generation is that we cannot enjoy the momentAlexey Gubarev
And another good thing is that telephones stop working. We usually start from really remote locations. The next day, at lunchtime, your telephone stops working. And it’s maybe not working for the next seven days. This really changes people.
I’m telling you my experience from Mongolia: the first day, people took their phones and tried to see if they were working, the second day they didn’t work, and the third day they forgot about it. They understood that they needed to enjoy the moment.
This is the problem of our generation – we cannot enjoy the moment. For instance, I am going to concerts, and people are not enjoying concerts, they are recording them. It is not the same. Maybe I am a little old-fashioned. But you have to feel the moment, I think.
For example, I really want to do the photos by myself as well. But what did I do? I got camera guys and video guys with us who do that job, and I don’t have to think about it, that I am missing something. It was a really smart decision because from the trip I bring maybe 20-30 photos I made, that’s it. But they make 10 thousand photos. They give me a picture, and I get a feeling I didn’t miss anything. I open the album after the rally and I can see it.
Some things are really easy to organize, but people never think about them. We have our daily photos ready the next day morning. You come to breakfast, and operators give you a memory stick, you connect your phone, and you get the photos from the previous day.
I really like to organize stuff. Because I had companies from 400 to 1,000 people, I know how to organize that properly. I do the same on expeditions, just to deliver a good product.
So MadWay Rally is like a digital detox, a mental getaway. Would you say you feel more alive during these rallies?
Of course, I do believe you feel more alive. Because you are enjoying the moment. You are not thinking about how it looks on a cellphone camera, or how people are watching you…
Those things happen at completely isolated location sites, basically, you don’t have anyone around you. The only people there are your friends and the crew who is doing this job in the back seat.
When the rally is passing some cities, of course, it gets huge attention, and people stop and look. But most of the time we are going to places where there’s nobody. This gives you the freedom to concentrate on yourself.
You know, some days, I like to drive by myself, without anyone else in the car. I take time to think about myself. When you are at your job, in the office, or you have ten meetings in a day, you cannot concentrate on yourself. You have to do the duties which you are obliged to do.
Crash course in adventure
Were you ever involved in a car accident during the rally?
I had an accident in 2003, I flipped over with my car. But during the rally, I never had an accident myself, knock on wood.
We have big accidents, but the strangest one for me happened in Mongolia. We arrived at a remote location where we just received the cars. My wife decided to drive a buggy. I put on her seatbelt, I put on her helmet, I put it on the friend of hers too, and told her “Now, you can go”. Three minutes after we started the rally, they flipped over and did a triple somersault.
With a buggy, you have to be really careful. Because buggy is light. If you catch something with back wheels, it’s very easy to turn it upside down. People without experience don’t know that.
But slowly, the team is becoming more organized. I also take my wife to many training sessions. We went to Sweden and Iceland lakes to train how to drive on ice. I took her to Dubai to train her how to drive on dunes. And she became a good driver.
I did the same for our team members, to bring the level of driving at expeditions higher, to make sure we are safer. Because we really go to difficult locations.
As a matter of fact, none of you are professional rally drivers. Most participants are entrepreneurs such as yourself, coming from the IT & tech industry?
Most of the people are from IT, yes.
Check out how MadWay Rally crew spent their days on frozen Lake Baikal!
MadWay Rally balancing price and principles
If someone wants to participate in MadWay Rally, how much money do they need to cash out?
We don’t have open admissions, you cannot even apply. But the cost is approximately 150,000 dollars for two people for one rally, without travel expenses to the country.
I haven’t decided yet if MadWay Rally should become a commercial projectAlexey Gubarev
So if people don’t apply, do they come from your inner circle?
Yes, they are mostly my friends. We don’t open to submissions because on such expeditions it is hard to manage a big group. Over 30 participants are unbelievably hard to manage. The problem becomes with safety, quality, and service.
The biggest problem for me now is that I have a big queue of people who want to come and I cannot accept them because I just don’t have space. Also, we go to locations where the largest hotel has maybe 25 rooms. So I cannot do more than that.
There’s a huge limitation on the number of people I can accept. We were thinking about doing two rallies, but it is not a commercial project, this is a non-profit. I never thought if I want to change this or not.
Every rally, we do a lot of charity. During the rally in Kyrgyzstan, we renovated 41 kilometers of a road that was not used for 20 years. We renovated it and opened it.
Then we did a huge charity concert there too. We paid for all the expenses, performers, and stage, and all ticket income was paid to the Kyrgyzstan charity fund which will spend it on the local needs of the place where we did the rally.
We have a different philosophy. I’m not sure if we should go commercial. And it’s not my business. It’s more of a hobby, it’s about the moment. If I attach the moment to the business side… I haven’t decided yet.
Racing against time
It’s true, business is something else. Your Cyprus career is focused on launching advanced tech solutions. As a business angel, you invest in projects that conduct research in longevity and anti-aging drugs and technology. Are you personally scared of death?
Eh… (long silence) You know, I have a really good joke about that. And it’s actually connected to the Mad Max idea. My problem is that in long-term planning, I believe too much in an apocalypse. (laughter) I always have to consider something can happen. Okay, I am not a young boy, and of course, you don’t know what can happen.
The last four years were crazy. Covid, Ukraine, now Africa. Where are we going? Doesn’t it look like a path of the apocalypse?Alexey Gubarev
A crazy story: one and a half months ago, my friend died. He was six months younger than me. And he died while doing a medical test. He died in the hospital where he went just for a check-up.
Scared? I am not really scared. Careful? Maybe. Logically careful. But to concentrate on that? No. But…
You know what I think… I discussed this morning with my wife about this, as I was watching Euronews, and there was no good news. Everything they were saying was bad news. Instead of seeing some good things about what is happening in the world, we are completely concentrated on bad things. I think the general approach is a little bit wrong about that.
And of course, the last four years were crazy. We started with Covid, then the war in Ukraine, and now we have another war coming in Africa. Where are we going? Doesn’t it look as if we are heading to the path of the apocalypse?
True, the future is not predictable. But how long would you like to live?
Yesterday, the oldest lady in Cyprus died, she was 111 years old. Cyprus is a good place to live long.
But it’s not about how long you live. It’s about how long you live in good conditions. You can be 100 years old, not be able to do anything, and stay in a hospital. Is this life?
For me, I wish I can live to 100, in good medical conditions. But what will happen with that, we will know soon. Technology is moving very fast. A lot of things are happening, and I believe there will be a big revolution in longevity in the next 20 years. What you have to do is not die in the next two decades, and be in good health condition. Just survive these 20 years! (laughter)
There are tech entrepreneurs of your generation, such as Bryan Johnson who went to extreme lengths to reverse his aging and find a solution to staying young forever. What do you personally do in that regard for yourself? Do you have special routines?
I train ten times a week, I exercise every morning. The one thing that you can work on is to have a good physical condition because it is super important. You know, when you are 20, you can do anything. When you are 30, you can still do anything. When you are 40, you really have to work to be in the same shape, or to at least look the same.
When I was 30, I had a simple operation where you remove an appendix. I came out of anesthesia, and asked: “Doctor Andreas, how am I?”
He said: “Alex, you are 30. You cannot be better anymore. Every day is worse.” (laughter) This is what you have to remember. Now you have to work to be in the same shape.
I go to the gym, I am riding a bicycle, I swim. In October, I’m going to try to do the Olympic triathlon, 1.5-kilometer swim, 40 kilometers bicycle, 10 kilometers run.
Do you take any supplements to advance your health?
Only vitamins. I am not doing biohacking. If you want to take some serious supplements for health extension, I believe they have to be tested properly. Because they may give more damage than benefits.
A road to retirement
Can you imagine yourself being in a retirement home one day, playing chess?
I wish. (laughter) I remember when I was 25-26, and started Servers.com, I was thinking: by 30, I would make a big company and retire. Then I made some other big companies, and said to myself, when I sell this company, I’ll retire.
Being active keeps you alive longerAlexey Gubarev
I sold Servers.com three months ago, and I was a little bit upset about myself. I sold the company, I got the money, and it was the biggest sale of my life; I should be really happy. And you start to think about what you have to do now, what you have to achieve, do you have to buy a present for yourself. (laughter)
I was thinking about it for two days, and I understood that nothing changed. There were no presents, and I just continued doing what I want. And I said, okay, maybe it’s not yet the time.
You know, Warren Buffet is over 80, and he is still active and works. I do believe that it is the most important to continue being active because if your brain is busy with thinking, this keeps you alive.
I see so many people who go to retirement houses, and they start to become older much faster. There is nothing to do, they are not motivated, they don’t have fire and ice, and they don’t know what to do tomorrow. I believe being active keeps you alive much longer.
MadWay Rally’s escape to dystopian fantasy
This idea that grown-up men and women dress up in movie-style costumes and drive pimped-up cars through real-life movie sets could sound like an escape from real life. Sort of like a next-level Burning Man, finding a community that embraces the idea of a dystopian fantasy. It could be seen as childish by someone. Do you feel that you and your friends are giving yourselves a permit to live a new youth through this project, away from family obligations, business life stress, money chase, rat race, and so on?
A lot of my friends went to Burning Man, but then told me that it was not so interesting. (laughter) Because MadWay Rally is much more active.
Burning Man is nice. I was there myself, and it’s really strange. I didn’t take any drugs, I never took drugs in my life, it’s not for me. But I went there because there’s a great artist world, and this is what I really liked about Burning Man.
But if we are speaking about why we are doing this, I think it is about the idea and about the possibility. Because what are the chances of people like me and my friends ever going to Kyrgyzstan, without this story? They are close to zero.
My friends and I are visiting places we never expected to visit. To see the world how it looked before people. We went to places where a human foot never stepped on. There are not so many people in the world who can do this.
If you are living in Europe, maybe you can see such places in the Alps, you can actually go to places that never saw visitors. But we are going to places and countries that are really beautiful. I’m telling you, Kyrgyzstan is super beautiful. It is like Switzerland, but with much higher mountains. In Switzerland, the average height is from 2.5 to 4 kilometers. In Kyrgyzstan, the average height is between 5.5 and 7 thousand meters. It’s unbelievably nice. People are different, we meet another culture.
What we are actually looking for is to get experience, the one that we cannot get somewhere else. It’s about that.
Alexey Gubarev’s response to the modern apocalypse
It’s very interesting what you are saying. It feels as if you are going to places where the future hasn’t arrived yet, it’s preserved. But also, from Mad Max fantasy, it could resemble the future that is in front of us, the closest one can get to a post-apocalyptic Wasteland. Of course, things are changing fast, from climate change to war conflicts. There is a true apocalypse going on in Ukraine at this very moment. With the background of your origin, how do you respond to someone’s possible perception that MadWay Rally is an inappropriate playground for a rich Russian tycoon? How do you position yourself in terms of this ongoing apocalypse happening between your home country and its first neighbor?
I would not like to connect these. I started this rally many years ago, much before anything happened. Personally, everyone can decide what they are taking themselves. I made my decision, it’s public information, I stopped my Russian citizenship, and I gave my passport back. Each person can decide what they want to do, and I did it like that. I stopped my Russian passport, I don’t go to Russia anymore. And I don’t believe what is going on is over. There should always be a solution.
When the war started, we were moving our people from Ukraine (from other countries), and it was really a terrible situation. One and a half year has passed, and we don’t know where is the end. I know they are fighting for territory or something, but in my personal opinion, with a hundred thousand people killed, is territory really worth so many lost lives, from both sides?
The biggest crime of this story is that people are dying today. And they are not doing anything to stop that on both sides. I believe it’s better to have a bad peace than a good war. All they have to do is to stop people from dying.
Roadmap to positive change
As we know, with great power comes great responsibility. I don’t know what is Alexey Gubarev’s net worth, but you are obviously a wealthy man. You revealed you have 200 cars, I know you own a yacht, and generally seem to be investing smartly. Once people succeed and gain fortune, such as Elon Musk, let’s say, they have an opportunity to change the world, not just a logo of a leading social media network. Of course, Musk’s venture into space is much more revolutionary than renaming Twitter. While you share the name with Aleksei Gubarev, a Russian cosmonaut who flew on Soyuz to space in 1975 and 1978, your extravagancy didn’t go that direction. You seem more grounded. How do you see yourself as a person who made good investments and got the opportunity to change the world for the better?
I am doing a lot of charity, really big. My wife actually created the biggest charity company in Cyprus – the City Friends Club. We started it after Covid. We were walking around the city and saw how dirty it was. And we created this company that is cleaning the city because the municipality doesn’t have enough power to clean it properly. We are trying to help them do the job they are not able to do. This is a really big and prospective project that is going on.
We also created the association of IT companies – TechIsland. Its vision is to create a tech hub in Cyprus, and we are doing a really good job with that. It’s the biggest association in the country. We have 270 members already, with over 27 thousand people working in Cyprus. We had really good progress since we created the association. In 2020, the IT sector in Cyprus was 8.5 percent of GDP, and in 2022, it was already 13. In two years, we almost doubled the contribution of the ICT sector to the GDP of Cyprus, which is an unbelievable result.
My vision about what I can contribute is to try to change Cyprus in a good way because for me it has become a home. I feel responsible for where I live. One of the changes is Cyprus’s economic affairs, also to bring more highly-skilled professionals, I really want Cyprus to grow as an IT hub.
We see a huge improvement in this region in the last few years, and I think this is only the beginning. Cyprus really has a good opportunity to become a local big IT hub like Israel, and we think in 2-3 years, Cyprus will also be on the map.
Leaving trace instead of trash
The City Friends Club charity is focusing on reducing waste through a more efficient system for a cleaner environment. Can you tell me more about your attitude toward responsible waste management during the MadWay rallies? That throwing a truck in flames down the mountain could raise some concern, so I wanted you to be clear about this…
No, we are actually pretty efficient in that. Our idea is to leave the place in the same condition we found it in. We never leave garbage. You cannot create the biggest cleaning charity company in Cyprus and be irresponsible somewhere else. For us, this is super important, also for our image. We don’t want to have a bad image.
The way we do the rally is super efficient in terms of how we handle everything. Nobody had bad comments that we are not handling the environment properly during the race. Of course, we burn fuel, we cannot change that much. (laughter) We cannot go with electric cars because where we go, we cannot charge them.
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. You are a big collector, collecting from vintage audio equipment to old cars. Eventually, these collections call for more eyes, and then you come up with ideas for museums…
Our focus on building the museum of retro cars will be next year, and one day we will build something related to Mad Max. I really like the idea of post-apocalypse, people like it too.
Not many movies create their world. “Harry Potter”, “Star Wars”, “Star Trek”… These are the movies that create new universes. And “Mad Max” is one of them. Before “Mad Max”, nobody thought about post-apocalypse in such a way.
Four decades after “Mad Max” premiere, the quantity of nuclear weapons in the world only got bigger. People love post-apocalypse because many believe it’s possibleAlexey Gubarev
George Miller created a universe, how post-apocalypse, a life after a nuclear war, could look like. The first movie was released in 1979, and I believe it was very actual. People were really worried about it, what could happen to the world.
It hasn’t become irrelevant, because 40 years passed since these times, but the quantity of nuclear weapons in the world has become even bigger. Each time, we just hope that it doesn’t get to a situation where it becomes a really big problem for everybody. I do believe that nuclear weapons have to be destroyed in the world and that we don’t have to discuss it. But we are not there yet. We are really not there.
People love post-apocalypse because many believe it’s possible. We can go in this bad direction as a civilization, as humans, because a lot of decisions that are made by politicians are not smart. I hope we will never go there, but everything can happen.
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