The Isuzu D-Max Is Ready For Battle In The Rallye Aicha des Gazelles

Rallye Aicha des Gazelles Team 183
Team 183, Image: Nicole Dreon

The 24th Rallye Aicha des Gazelles is one day away from its official start in Morocco. Four US teams are competing in this navigational rally where the goal is to drive in as straight a line as possible with points awarded for shortest distance between checkpoints instead of fastest time. GPS and cell phones are not allowed and there are no chase crews to help if things go wrong.

I’m driving for Team 183, the Indiana Joans. This is our second year at the rally and we’re hoping for a top twenty finish this time. Logistics can be one of the most challenging aspects of a rally of this magnitude and we found it easiest to rent a vehicle from France and have it delivered to us in Casablanca.

We chose an Isuzu D-Max this year with a 3.0L four banger, good for 161 HP and 265 lb-ft of torque. The diesel engine gets just under 20 MPG with power going to those 4×4 wheels via a 5-speed manual transmission.

The front of our truck is supported with an antiroll bar, upper and lower wishbones, and a torsion beam. The rear gets leaf springs with Bilsteins placed on all four corners. We’re riding on Hancook Dynamax AT tires, LT235/85 on 16″ wheels.

Emme Hall, Sabrina Howells, Rachelle Croft, Rhonda Cahill, Susanah Hoehn, and JoHanah Hoehn, Image: Nicole Dreon
Emme Hall, Sabrina Howells, Rachelle Croft, Rhonda Cahill, Susanah Hoehn, and JoHanah Hoehn, Image: Nicole Dreon

It’s not a bad set up, but it’s fairly stock. If I’d had my way there’d be Fox coilovers all the way around and some BFG or Toyo off road tires. Unfortunately, when you rent you get what you get. Fortunately, Rallye Aicha des Gazelles is not about speed so I can baby the truck as needed.

We’re carrying 2 spares, 2 sets of Maxtrax, 1 shovel, 1 sand rake, 5 quarts of oil, a jerrycan of water, basic tools, rations, a jack, an air compressor, Slime, and some small parts. I’d also like to carry a spare clutch, spare tie rod, and one shock, but this may be tricky as I have to convince the mechanics to give those parts to me.

We can call for mechanical assistance while we’re out on the road without being assessed a penalty as long as we have the part. They’ll even lend us a hand, but if they have to bring the part to us, then we lose our ranking. If I could, I’d carry a fully prepped axle as well, but I think that might be pushing it just a bit.

Last year I learned the hard way that this rented truck is not a Trophy Truck nor is it a 1600 car. Hell, it’s not even a class 11. On the second day I was going too fast, hit hard, and bent the chassis. The officials wouldn’t let us continue until we signed a waiver absolving the Rally from all responsibility. They also put an alert on our Iritrack system to notify them if we went over 50 km/h. The experience proved that driving slowly, steadily, and consistently are the keys to doing well in the rally.

Follow the rally action live and watch teams 107, 171, 182, and 183 to see how the US contingent fares in the 24th Rallye Aicha des Gazelles.

Emme Hall tflcar Emme is a driver, reviewer, and rabble rouser. She is the principle driver and trophy winner for the Mega Monkey Motorsports™ 2 seat 1600 desert racer, powered by an air-cooled VW engine and has also been on the podium in a stock bug, a trophy bug, and an ultra-4. She is one of only 13 American women to have participated in the Rallye Aicha des Gazelles, a 9 day all female off road rally in Morocco with no GPS. You can check her out online on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and either one of her blogs