Stage 3 MARATHON
Daily Report: first Marathon leg, Day 1
Sleeping outside of the bivouac tonight
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
Video: Leg 2
RALLYE NOTES 20:15 - 310 may lose their position
RALLYE NOTES 18:15 - the 1st teams reach the bivouac
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
RALLYE NOTES 11:30 - Novices performing well
RALLYE NOTES 10:30 - the leaders keep their momentum
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.
RALLYE NOTES 16:00 -
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!
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
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.