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Testing The Limits Of Man And Machine

For former RAF pilot turned adventurer, Matt Prior – who holds the World Record for the Highest Altitude Reached by a Taxi – adventure is a game of risk and reward, of taking a step into the unknown and hoping for a journey of discovery

He’s driven a taxi to the ends of the Earth and journeyed from southern India to the Himalayas in a rickshaw; now Matt Prior is channeling his explorer’s spirit into the MP Group, the company he formed to help people and businesses realise their true potential.

After six years in the Royal Air Force, Prior’s career in adventure began in earnest, as he sought to push the limits of not only himself, but also a series of increasingly unsuitable vehicles. These motor-powered expeditions included driving a £150 car from London to Mongolia and back, and a WWII motorbike around the largest freshwater lake in the world (in the depths of Russian winter).

But what drives his own desire to take on these unique challenges? The answer, he says, lies in an obsession with what’s yet to be achieved.

Nothing else manages to achieve so much on a personal level, in such a short time, as adventure

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Q: What came first, your passion for aviation or adventure?
A: ‘Adventure for sure. I’ve always been interested in what I haven’t seen or done before. What does it actually feel like? Why do others crave this? How hard is it? Is it as amazing as it looks? What will I learn? Who will I meet? Where will this all lead? And most of all, what if I don’t succeed? Will I regret it? He who is afraid of life will never live.’

Q: You’ve driven a taxi round the world and circumnavigated Lake Baikal on an ancient motorbike in winter – what motivates these unique adventures?
A: ‘Mainly curiosity, along with the desire to push boundaries, face the unknown, do things very few people get to do, disconnect from normal life and challenge myself. There is nothing else that manages to achieve so much on a personal level, in such a short amount of time, as adventure. The experiences and growth you get from these adventures, on a whole multitude of levels, is unparalleled.’

Q: Most of your unsupported expeditions involved driving a motorised vehicle to extreme environments – in those situations what’s likely to break down first: man or machine?
A: ‘It’s like anything: it depends on what man and what machine. I think either could outstrip the other depending on the situation. I’ve seen both. I went through a period of specifically using poor vehicles as I knew they would fail often and I craved that exact challenge. You never knew what was going to happen and who was going to be around to potentially help, if anyone. It makes me smile just thinking about it, actually. All things considered, I’d say at the moment the man is superior due to our resilience, intelligence and problem solving ability. I think this may change as technology advances.’

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Q: What’s the toughest expedition you’ve been on?
A: ‘I wouldn’t say one in particular was the toughest, but certain aspects from each one stand out in their own way. Sometimes it's mental, sometimes it's physical, sometimes it’s the situation you find yourself in, and sometimes it’s purely holding yourself and your team together to get whatever it is you want to get done, done.’

‘I’ve been in all extremes of environments in all sorts of situations, each helping with that library of mental references and experiences to draw on. On each occasion I was stretched in different ways and I like it like that. I like the variety and confronting the unknown. I like not knowing what situation I’m going to end up in, what I’m going to learn, who I’m going to meet and how it will all help going forward. That’s a large part of why I do them.’

‘Is getting arrested for terrorism tougher than pushing for a summit? Is having a friend with a broken leg in the middle of nowhere tougher than having a gun pointed in your face? Is the jungle worse than the desert? I could go on and on, it’s subjective and depends on your strengths and weaknesses, and the situation at the time.’

Q: What is the MP Group?
A: ‘It’s a small group of specialist companies which were started from my passion for adventure and have naturally evolved from the MP Adventure Academy, including: MP Performance which works with ex UK Special Forces in outdoor environments to bring out the best in people; AdventureX, which creates a trusted space for people to truly connect while exploring comfort zones to gain perspective; and a Special Projects division which covers anything from world firsts to TV and film. We are also starting a new company to become the “go to” for genuine and unique adventures in Asia.’

Q: Having experienced everything from monsoons to snow blizzards, how pivotal is the weather in determining whether an expedition is likely to succeed or fail?
A: ‘I think the weather plays a huge part in expeditions – far more than people realise. The key is in the planning and preparation. As long as you’ve done your research, considered worst-case scenarios and have a solid plan in place, it’s then more about the mental battle than anything else. If you haven’t, the weather and environmental conditions could well wreak havoc on whatever it is you’re planning on doing.’

Find out more about Matt Prior’s MP Performance and the MP Adventure Academy at Mattprior.co.uk. Follow @mattprioruk

Words: Issac Williams

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