Daily Report: first Marathon leg, Day 1

Pendant 2 jours, nos gazelles ont pu tester l’autonomie : ni assistance mécanique, ni bivouac... ni douches ! Cette première épreuve marathon était très attendue, avec appréhension ou avec joie pour celles qui la connaissent, elle constitue l’un des temps forts du rallye. 295km avec une durée de conduite de 19h30, elle relie Nejjakh au [...]


Sleeping outside of the bivouac tonight

…Teams 124, 128, 154, 155, 165, 184, 186, 199 and 220!
Team 209 (Audrey SOKOLOFF and Emmanuelle GAUDRY - Lesieur), immobilized by a broken clutch, have had their problem fixed and are approaching the bivouac. 


It is going to be a dusty night in and off the bivouac: a sudden sandstorm is whirling gritty dust everywhere, sending everyone rushing for the shelter of their tents. Tent pegs, frequently neglected, are a must tonight - the sandman will be putting in more than just a fleeting appearance.

RALLYE NOTES 23:20 - Team 232 back on track


In the restaurant tent shaken vigorously by the sandstorm, Team 232 (Thérèse LE BLEU and Marie MICHAUD - CEPPM - Expace) are relating their mechanical misadventures of the past two days.
The cause: a broken drive shaft, resulting in a 4WD… stuck in 2WD.
Repairs were carried out this morning using a replacement part brought in from Casablanca last night. The two Gazelles will be able to rejoin the competition tomorrow morning!


Video: Leg 2

RALLYE NOTES 20:15 - 310 may lose their position

3 kilometres from CP6, the yellow Dacia Duster representing La Poste finds itself stuck on a large rock, the back wheel in the air.
Unable to move the vehicle, the two Gazelles decide not to take any risks and call for assistance [...]


RALLYE NOTES 18:15 - the 1st teams reach the bivouac


After this long and surprising 2-day leg, the first teams have crossed the finish line and are exploring the new bivouac at El Fecht.
First reaction of Team 187 (Carole MONTILLET and Julie VERDAGUER - Axecibles), leaders in 4WD class after Leg 2: "I don't know if we were excellent, but we didn't get lost, in spite of the long distances without features. Overall a pretty fast course, less difficult than Leg 2, and we're glad to be at the bivouac at 5:00!"
A few minutes later, the Volkswagen Amarok of Team 170 (Jeanette JAMES and Florence PHAM - Volkswagen Véhicules Utilitaires) draws up between the finish line flags. Judging from information from the Rallye Control Centre, they drove an excellent course, except when it came to CP8:
"When plotting a distance heading, we plotted the point at 42.9 km instead of 42.2 km… It's too bad, we drove 12 extra km…It's going to be hard to advance in the ranking after that, but it's a human error, we are staying positive, the competition is not over, anything could happen!"

RALLYE NOTES 15:00 - Team 141 will be at the start line tomorrow


After experiencing major problems with their Jeep's motor, Team 141 (Sylvie DENNINGER and Prune SALTI - Sunnydream) will be able to rejoin the competition tomorrow for Leg 4.
The cause of the problem: a broken cooling fan, which punctured the radiator. In order to keep going, the Gazelles resort to an old technique well-known to the local Berbers: adding tobacco to the radiator to plug the leak. The necessary repairs are eventually carried out by the mechanical assistance team: the cooling fan and radiator have been replaced.
The wind has come up, reducing visibility out on the course. There is the feeling of a sand storm in the air, which would greatly complicate the progress of the teams, most of whom are between CP8 and CP10. Just one more checkpoint to find before the leaders reach the El Fecht bivouac!


RALLYE NOTES 11:30 - Novices performing well

With only 58 kilometres of penalties since the start of the competition,  Team 26 (Aurélie LECOINTRE and Véronique DESPLATS - Hexis Energy Drink), here for their first Rallye, not only lead the First Participation Quad/Motorbike class, but also the general Quad/Motorbike class.
In 4WD class, Team 104 (Marie BLACHERE and Sandy DALHERY - Isuzu - NRJ Groupe - Ashinaga), leaders in the First Participation 4WD class, are also in a very respectable 24th place overall in 4WD class. Will these excellent performances be confirmed by the results of the Leg 3 Marathon? To be continued...




RALLYE NOTES 10:30 - the leaders keep their momentum

The legendary and profound silence of the Moroccan desert is momentarily broken by the early-morning sounds of the Gazelles as they crawl from their tents after a good night's sleep out in the open desert



Sleeping outside of the bivouac tonight


…all of the teams! Time for the Marathon night in complete autonomy in the middle of nowhere. The Gazelles have gathered in small groups to spend a friendly evening around a campfire. The Organization vehicles are also spending the night on the terrain, ready to intervene if they are contacted by the mobile Rallye Control Centre. The RCC team is directing the procedings directly on the terrain until the Rallye Control Centre at the El Fecht bivouac is up and running.




43 teams have already reached 4X, the checkpoint that marks the exit to the dunes. Dunes that held many surprises in store








Nothing can stop the Gazelles


The Rallye Control Centre radios are operating at full speed. There is plenty of action out on the terrain: 80 vehicles are circulating at latitude 31°10 to the north, 30 vehicles are approaching CP3, the crossovers and 3 4WDs are just south of CP2, etc… In short, the Rallye is progressing well through the dunes.



The Gazelles on M6, video 12

RALLYE NOTES: Tackling the dunes!

Latest news from the Rallye Control PC: the competitors are making good time and the first teams are tackling the Merzouga dunes. To surf the waves of sand requires skill and a good control of the vehicle's speed.
At the partially-dismantled Nejjakh bivouac, Quebec Team 103 (Sophie SYLVESTRE and Annie-Claude PLANTE - Pic Bois Design), who spent the night in the open desert, are back and almost ready to take the start of Leg 3: "We knew where the bivouac was, but we decided to get some sleep first. Now our goal is to do our best and to keep living every moment to the fullest!"
Let's go, ladies, the dunes await!



Bruno SOLO, Dominique CHAPATTE and Younes EL MECHRAFI signal the start


Start of the 3rd leg, presented by MDJS:


The more wide-awake patrons of the restaurant tent this morning will have noticed the presence of Bruno SOLO, patron of this 22nd edition, who is here to encourage the Gazelles.



Known for his sense of humour, Solo is master of the subtle art of making people smile, even at 5 o'clock in the morning. He takes the opportunity to ask some questions about the event. Later, at the start line, Bruno Solo records the next M6 capsule, and once again his creativity knows no bounds.  



Dominique CHAPATTE, star presenter of the automobile program M6 Turbo on M6, is here to signal the start of today's leg. The presenter takes this opportunity to record his next episode.



The start flag is also lowered by Younès EL MECHRAFI, General Director of la Marocaine Des Jeux et des Sports [Moroccan Sport and Gambling Agency]. There is certainly a lot of encouragement for the Gazelles this morning!











RALLYE NOTES: Longer briefing than usual

Plus que d’habitude, car l’étape du jour se différencie pour deux raisons.
D’abord, les Gazelles partent ce matin pour une étape Marathon, une étape sur deux jours en autonomie totale dans la plus pure tradition des grandes épopées en terres d’Afrique.
En plus de la préparation habituelle, il faut donc ranger les affaires et charger l’eau Aïn Ifrane pour les deux jours. Ensuite...


LEG 3 - Saturday March 24 and Sunday March 25

NEIJAKH / EL FECHT - ideal distance 295 km – minimum time 19:30 – Marathon leg


First of all, this is a leg that lasts 48 hours, with no bivouac and no mechanical assistance overnight.
Second, today the Gazelles will confront the legendary dunes of Erg CHEBBI.
A combination that will surely make this 3rd leg the crowning leg of the rally!

On the first day of this marathon leg, the time has come to plunge the competitors into a world of softness and beauty, source of apprehension for newcomers and pure pleasure for the "Gazelles of the sands": the dunes! However, the competitors’ skill levels vary considerably, and although sand is an important part of the rally, every team needs to be able to handle this leg.

For that reason, facing the dunes is optional. Today, each team will have three routes to choose from, according to their technical ability, competitiveness, and strategy: the easy route, where teams should be able to reach all of the CPs but will be penalised; an intermediate route with lower penalties; and a difficult route that can lead to a comfortable advance in the rankings but with a greater risk of misadventure or even failure. 

So the more cautious teams can choose a route that alternates between wide rolling spaces and tight landscapes. For the others, sand will be the colour of the day…

The intermediate "X bis" route may be a prudent choice; a fairly accessible route that will take the Gazelles into the dunes, where they will manoeuvre around the larger dunes but will still experience the pleasure of moving silently through the sand.

And then there is the "X" route... leading the Gazelles into the heart of the dunes, close to the highest sandy peaks of Erg CHEBBI. This major challenge may be left up to the few brave souls who dare…

But watch out, once the sand has been conquered, orientation skills will still be needed to locate the last CPs of the day and make it back to the haven of the bivouac.
This will be the first night alone in the open desert. Not a sound to be heard apart from an occasional laugh or song from a nearby “Gazelle” - the silence is profound and surprising…

Early on Day 2 of this marathon, the Gazelles will have to make their way across Oued Rhéris, birthplace of many Gazelle stories and legends… Then navigation and careful map reading are once again the order of the day, through immense wide valleys with long straight stretches...  where it is easy to doze off and forget to keep one’s eye on the map!
The route to the new bivouac will pass close to Taourirt Timlaline or "Gazelle Mountain" before crossing an extremely sandy oued that may prove to be a real sand trap… The gazelles will have to exercise caution – just because they are out of the high dunes doesn’t mean that they can no longer get stuck in the sand. Especially with the fatigue they must be experiencing at the end of a two-day marathon...

While the El Fecht bivouac will certainly be less peaceful than last night’s camp in the open desert, it will also mean a good meal, a hot shower, and a chance to catch up with friends.