Thursday March 24th, first leg of this 21st edition of the Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles. The competitors will finally have the chance to face the terrain...
Today's leg is a 192 km loop in the region of Mech Irdane. A warm-up, as Jean-Pierre Berthet called it in his briefing, without major difficulty for navigation or driving. The estimated minimum time is 9.5 hours - a long day awaits the Gazelles. The first teams line up at 06:00 under a cloudy sky. Strong winds are reducing visibility. Most of the teams take the paved road away from the bivouac for about 36 km due west to CP1, which is common to all of today's routes.
The Isuzu Media Relay Teams
At CP1 we catch up with Belgian team 195 (Tatiana SILVA BRAGA TAVARES and Emilie KINO - ISUZU / CINE TELE REVUE / ASSOCIATION THINK PINK) who, after a difficult Prologue (only one CP), have set out on the right foot and in good spirits, like Team 179 - ISUZU / TV5 MONDE / ASSOCIATION PAROLES DE FEMMES. Fiona Gélin and Valérie Ravery drove back to the bivouac in the dark last night, and were a bit scared: "We want to make it to Essaouira for our sponsors and TV5 Monde", explains Fiona. "Whatever happens, now we are going to stop at 5:00 every day no matter what happens and head straight to the bivouac - we don't want to take any chances!" A few hours later, we find our team near CP3, after some hesitation and getting stuck once. As planned, they are heading back to the bivouac before dark with 3 checkpoints!
Team 170 (Julie FERREZ and Ingrid GRAZIANI), who lost a rear window during the Prologue, made use of their trip to the mechanics to change the rims of their 4X4: "My logo is a pink ball, so instead of the green rims, we got the Isuzu mechanics to give us pink ones", explains Julie. "That didn't stop us from blowing a tire on a sharp rock just before CP2, and later we got stuck in the sand; after shovelling for two minutes we were on our way but now we are looking for CP3, we're not ahead of the game!". They are sponsored by Femme Actuelle magazine and are competing for Fondation des Pièces Jaunes.
After some difficulty finding CP3 this morning, mother-daughter team 194 (Anne-Charlotte TILLIETTE and Beatrice TILLIETTE - ISUZU / TF1 AUTO-MOTO / ASSOCIATION HUMA CHTI) are among the first teams to reach CP6. They return to the bivouac with all of their checkpoints and 57.57 km over the ideal distance. A nice leg for this team who won their participation in a competition organized by TF1 and Auto Moto.
The two Gazelles from Alsace, Team 176 - ISUZU / GENERATION 4X4 / ASSOCIATION KASSOUMAI, Sandrine and Carole, did not hesitate to stop and help Marie and Natalia (184 - ISUZU / TÉLÉ 7 JOURS / ASSOCIATION MÉDICO LIONS CLUB) who were stuck in a row of dunes: "We pushed them out, they hadn't deflated their tires enough, but we had", explains Sandrine. "It took half an hour, but that's the Gazelle spirit, isn't it?". This team chose to compete for Association Kassoumi, which means "Hi, how are you" in Senegalese. Its projects include supplying schools with computers. They are sponsored by Génération 4X4 who is following them on their blog: g2gazelles.com
Team 177 - ISUZU / AUTOROUTE FM / ASSOCIATION AUDITIONSOLIDARITE.ORG, forced to get out their sand ladders in yesterday's Prologue, definitely has some problems navigating. Aurore and Charlotte are keeping their morale up, determined to do their best today… and to take a quick navigation course at the bivouac tonight if necessary!
They are not the only ones! Team 173 (Anne-Sarah GRUNENWALD and Maryline BARBE - ISUZU / COTE SANTE / ASSOCIATION CEW) didn't find a single checkpoint during the Prologue and had to get some pointers from the organization. Today's goal: 4 of the 7 CPs… They get back to the bivouac with only 2… but have already distributed more than 350 pink ribbons, symbol of the fight against breast cancer du sein, to Gazelles and organizers.
Team 121 (Estelle DUCRAY-RIDENT and Marie-Amelie SIROT - ISUZU / AUFEMININ.COM / HEART OF GAZELLES) have a good day. We find them approaching CP6 around 15:00, with enough time remaining to reach all of the checkpoints and get back to the bivouac before dark.
Team 139 (Laure NIGIDO-AMISSE and Valerie SANFOURCHE - ISUZU / RADIO VITAMINE / ASSOCIATION LE SOURIRE DE LUCIE) start the leg well - they are first to reach CP3 with only 2 extra km… Their secret? Precision and concentration! They end the leg with 4 CPs.
After getting stuck in the sand, team 184 (Marie-Helene MENAGER and Natalia DINGE SKLENARIKOVA - ISUZU / TÉLÉ 7 JOURS / ASSOCIATION MÉDICO LIONS CLUB) continue the leg without difficulty.