Canadian Team 110 – Demilec (Marie-France Belisle and Josée Beaudry) have been driving in the most environmentally-friendly manner during the first two legs of the Rallye. After Leg 2, the Canadians in their Isuzu D-Max lead the Eco-Driving Challenge with an index of 8.04 out of a maximum of 10, followed by Team 177 – Royal Air Maroc (Jamila Merimi and Naouel Hilali) with 8.02, and Team 188 – Les Belles Façades (Alexandra Lavarelo and Nathalie Paillard). The Logica EMO device analyses data from the engine and rates the pilot's driving style according to how environmentally friendly it is. 47 vehicles have been fitted with an EMO device for this year's edition. Consult the Eco-Driving Challenge result on the Logica website.
It is 23:30. At the bivouac, it looks like a swarm of fireflies is wandering around the zone reserved for the bathrooms and tents (... never go anywhere without your headlamp!). At the same time, you can hear the sound of the 4x4 belonging to Tolulope and Ibimina (Team 141 - Total) crossing the finish line. Meanwhle the Race PC is confirming the numbers of the teams that will be spending the night out in the open: 143, 196, 173, 313, 103, 310 and 154. Don't worry, the Rallye's organizers will keep an eye on these strayed Gazelles... Good night, everyone!
This leg, more than the others, demonstrates the superiority of certain teams. But the dunes also hold surprises, with some teams rising in the standings while others may lose their position... by just a handful of penalty points...
While the Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles is a serious and difficult challenge, our Gazelles are pampered! Marina Vrillacq, team relations manager, is always there to lend a sympatetic ear. And to congratulate them for having finished this marathon leg, nothing could be better than a cool glass of champagne served right at the finish line!
During yesterday morning's briefing, the competitors were eager to find out more about the leg which would lead them straight into the heart of the Merzouga dunes. They were given the choice of several routes of varying difficulty...
Many teams rose to the challenge and plunged into the immense dunes of Merzouga. In general, the teams are progressing relatively well: about thirty are close to CP2. The quads have lived up to their reputation and are the most at ease in the sand: teams 20 and 23 are at CP1, while teams 21 and 22 are already in the middle of the mountains of fine sand.
The second part of the marathon leg continues under a blazing sun and the mercury has risen considerably. At the back of the pack, several teams of Gazelles are still nearing their CP5 (150, 168, 191, 173, 101, 142 and 143), near the Jebel Tijekhi crescent. Another group is to be found between CP6 and CP7, near the Oued Rheris, an impressive water corridor in the middle of the otherwise arid scenery, while a third wave of participants is navigating between CP7 and CP8, in a hilly area offering magnificent landscapes of grey rock and pink sand. Finally, at the head of the course, teams 125, 162, 105 and 167 have already reached CP9 and will soon discover immense plateaus 20 to 30 km wide with stretches of sand... after locating a pass through the Aguelmous rocks, near the village of Fezzou, To be followed...
First day of spring! The sky is veiled in pale grey clouds over Merzouga, but the day promises to be a nice one. All of the Gazelles are back in action in an effort to reach the 6 checkpoints of the day, in addition to those that they didn't get to yesterday...
In the Erg Chebbi dunes, the challenge is not so much the navigation, but getting to the checkpoints... As the weather has been dry and hot lately, the sand is soft and thick and driving is difficult in the dunes. Of the 95 teams (4x4 and quads) out of 101 who chose the route through the dunes (a number that increases every year), there have already been 6 calls for assistance from teams stuck in the sand... whereas normally the Gazelles balk at requesting assistance, synonymous with a 200-point penalty. Quad teams 22 and 23 and 4x4 teams 116, 133, 138, 161, 162 and 192 have left the dunes after finding all the CPs there; teams 155, 160 who chose the route around the dunes have already reached CP5. Note that Team 112 (Sandrine RIDET and Céline BONO - SDIS 13) have broken their suspension and are waiting for mechanical assistance. Don't lose heart, Gazelles: the second part of this marathon leg should focus more on navigation, with less need for "elbow grease"!
Most teams have reached CP1. First difficulty of today's leg: every route required the Gazelles to cross a line of dunes at the start of the course. Many Gazelles have gotten stuck, and two teams (164 - Premalliance and 116 - JM Industrie) have already called for mechanical assistance to help them to get out of the sand.
At 6 o'clock, the Nejjakh bivouac was still a miniature village with some 500 inhabitants, in the middle of the desert. Five hours later, the temporary camp has packed up and gone, heading South. You could even say that the Rallye has barely "touched" the desert. After the bivouac site is completely cleaned by Sita Suez Maroc, nothing remains: not a single forgotten tent peg... it is as though the bivouac had never existed. The only signs that remain will soon be erased by the breeze that sweeps the area around this time every day. The bivouac was not a mirage: this is simply one more proof of the respect shown towards Morocco by the Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles, the only rally with an environmental mandate.
The Nejjakh bivouac is coming down. The material and the Moroccan and French workers will be transported to El Fecht, where it will all be rebuilt tonight and tomorrow morning in preparation for the Gazelles' arrival.
Marathon Leg? A single leg which takes... two days instead of one! No bivouac this evening, so the competitors will camp out in the middle of the dunes. As they do every year, they will get together in groups and spend the evening around a cheery campfire. This will be an added challenge for the Gazelles who are already feeling the effects of the last two days of competition. But today's route will take them through some magnificent scenery in the dunes of Merzouga (Erg Chebbi), the highest in the Kingdom of Morocco... An added motivation for our participants who, despite their fatigue, are eager and excited to use their shovels and sand ladders!
Three birthdays to celebrate this March 20th: Marie Pichot, clothing designer, 25 years old today and already in her 2nd participation (Team 166 - Parmentine); and Canadians Manon St-Louis (41 today, manager - Team 118 - Banque Laurentienne), and Ariane Gagné-Frégeau (26 today, student - Team 126 - Nurun). A birthday in the dunes de Merzouga... how "cool" is that!