Road to Morocco: Teams of Family and Friends Out to Conquer the 2015 Gazelle Rally

Gazelle Rally

The all female 25th Rallye Aicha des Gazelles will take place March 20-April 4th and America will be sending 10 teams. European competitors will start with technical verifications March 20th in Paris, with American teams joining them in Rabbat, Morocco on March 24th. From there teams will travel over the Atlas Mountains to Erfoud to start the 9-day competition.

Participants in the Gazelle Rally are not allowed chase crews, cell phones, or GPS. Points are awarded for shortest distance between checkpoints, not fastest time. Teams can choose their route with the help of an old map, a plotter, and a compass. There is no roadbook. Teams are given map coordinates and must plot them on their maps, then find their heading, then drive in as straight a line as possible. If a team comes upon an obstacle, be it a wash or a mountain, they must navigate around it and then return to their original heading.

Navigation Tools

With the exception of the marathon legs, teams return each night to a mobile bivouac, where they eat, sleep, gas up, and receive mechanical assistance.

While many participants will use their own vehicle for the 2015 Gazelle Rally, some teams find it easier to rent. Teams may not own an appropriate vehicle or they may find that shipping a vehicle from the United States to Morocco to be a logistical challenge.  Two American teams will be renting an Isuzu D-Max to carry them through the dunes of Morocco. The D-Max is one of the most popular trucks for those Gazelles that need to rent, and with good reason. It is tough, light weight, and the 3.0L turbo diesel gets excellent mileage. Gazelles can only receive fuel at the end of the stage (including the 2-day marathon stages) so fuel economy is paramount.

The 4-cylinder D-Max is good for 174 hp and 280 lb/ft of torque. The rental trucks are usually late model, and could be 5-speed automatic or manual transmission. They are prepped with a snorkel and bigger off-road tires, but suspension components are all stock.

Gazelle Rally

Sisters-in-law Sarah and Susie Saxton will be competing in the Gazelle Rally for the first time. Sarah Saxten was born in Dutchess County, New York. After moving around, she is finally settled in Encinitas, CA where she is a mom to her two sons and wife to her wonderful husband. She enjoys all forms of watersports, camping, hiking, yoga, and spending time with family and friends.

Sarah’s mother recently passed away to cancer. Through her loss she has gained a new perspective on living, and she knows that partnering with her sister-in-law in the Gazelle Rally will guide her along a path of awakening to more of those things in life that really matter.

Team Saxten

Susie Saxten was born and raised in San Diego, California and is a Stanford grad, class of 2009. Her professional background is in nonprofit operations. Recently, she moved back to Encinitas, CA to work for her family-owned restaurant company, T S Restaurants. There, she works with the company’s charitable program called Legacy of Aloha. Legacy of Aloha puts on events and raises money for local causes through its 12 restaurants in Hawaii and California.

Gazelle Rally

Rebecca Donaghe and Barbara Fiorentino, both current residents of Los Angeles, CA, are also competing as first time participants. Donaghe is a producer/director of commercials, branded contents, and music videos. She has an MBA from Yale University and enjoys sailing, cooking, rock climbing, and camping. Fiorentino is a thrill seeking casting director for feature films and television. She spends her time rock climbing, diving (both scuba and sky), and practicing yoga.

Team Path Finders

Friends for 16 years, Donaghe and Fiorentino seek out adventures to challenge their fears, explore different cultures and shift their points of view.  Every experience, whether at home or abroad, has challenged them to grow and taught them to innovate, introduce new ideas, dare beyond the normal conventions, and make changes in their own lives and in the lives they are privileged to be connected with as human beings. But most of all, to create and appreciate joy in their everyday lives.

The Gazelle Rally has a separate challenge for first-timers. The First Participation ranking is a special way to reward new Gazelles, showing that the Gazelle Rally is accessible to all women. With careful driving and attention to strategy, these two teams could do very well within this special challenge.

We don’t get the Isuzu D-Max here in USA, but Roman got a chance to take the 2015 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro out for some off road fun.

emme hall tflcar


Emme is a driver, reviewer, rabble rouser, and Gazelle who can be found online on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and either one of her blogs.