Road to Morocco: American Teams Flourish on Leg 2 of 2015 Gazelle Rally

2015 Gazelle Rally
Gazelles are off the line at 6am every morning. Photo by Nicole Dreon

The American teams had another mostly successful day on Leg 2 of the 2015 Gazelle Rally. Many teams got all their checkpoints and all teams returned to the bivouac by 9pm local time.

Going into Leg 2, the USA had all 4×4 teams in the top 40.

  • Team 107 Hoehn/Hoehn: 16th
  • Team 182 Klishevich/De Sybourg Siffert: 18th
  • Team 180 Pitell-Vaughan/Combs: 24th
  • Team 183 Donaghe/Fiorentino: 25th
  • Team 218 Croft/Cahill: 29th
  • Team 175 Saxten/Saxten: 33rd

Crossover rankings-

  • Team 317 Beavis/Roenigk: 2nd
  • Team 316 Mead/Marschner: 6th

Side x Side rankings-

  • Team 23 Sacks/Price: 13th

Expert rankings-

  • Team 400 Howells/Lerner: 12th

Today’s leg started very easily, with two CPs along the paved road going north out of Erfoud. The ideal distance for today was 190 kilometers, with an estimated time of 10 hours.

After CP2, the Americans got their first taste of the infamous Moroccan “cauliflower field.”

2015 Gazelle Rally
The “cauliflower fields” can cause damage if teams aren’t careful.

This odd desert plant looks like a greenish grey cauliflower head. They can be very large and hard as a rock. Teams must take care to avoid them or risk damaging their vehicle.

Today’s leg also featured many oueds, or washes. There has been a lot of rain this season in southern Morocco, and the women may have encountered some running water.

Most teams, not just the Americans took a work around between CPs 6 and 7. While they added more kilometers to their odometer, other teams added roughly the same amount as well.

2015 Gazelle Rally
Team 400 Howells/Lerner about to tackle the most difficult CP of the day.

There were very few clear reference points along much of today’s route. It’s next to impossible to take a heading when there is not a tree, bush, or mountain in sight. Navigators were most likely picking a point 50m ahead, walking backwards slowly to the truck, never taking her eyes off that point, climbing in, and directing drivers to that point. It would have been next to impossible to describe it verbally. Alternatively, navigators may have picked a point 50m ahead, walked to it with drivers following behind, then picked a new point 50m ahead and walked to it, until a feature came into view.

Team 180 Pitell-Vaughan/Combs had a few blips in their navigation around CPs 5, 6, and 7, but ultimately righted themselves and made all the checkpoints.

First participants Team 175 Saxten/Saxten had an excellent day with very straight lines, as did Team 317 Beavis/Roenigk and 182 Klishevich/De Sybourg-Siffert.

2015 Gazelle Rally
Team 175 saying adieu to a CP. Photo by Nicole Dreon

The Hoehn sisters in #107 continued on their straight line streak, although the deviated north a bit between CPs 3 and 4.

Team 218 Croft/Cahill had an excellent day, even though they traveled most of the day with a shock mount fixed with a ratchet strap. Their luck ended after CP 7, where they turned northwest instead of southeast. More than likely this was due to reading their plotter incorrectly. They soon hit the paved road north of Erfoud, got their bearings, and still made their final CP of the day.

2015 Gazelle Rally
Team 23 Price/Sacks at the starting line. Photo by Nicole Dreon

The first American side x side team of Price/Sacks in #23 again had problems with their tracker. It appeared to not activate until the team was in Erfoud. As of this writing the tracker says they found 5 of 8 CPs, but that they turned and headed back for the pavement. The tracker says they have not moved for the past two hours. Organizers have sent a recovery vehicle for them.

UPDATE: We have learned that Team 23 is having quite the adventure. While it was reported that the team ran out of gas in Leg 1, it’s now known that they also had to spend most of the night in the desert and arrived at the bivouac at 3:30am, just 30 minutes before today’s wake up call for Leg 2. Still, they have soldiered on.

Then when the team took the line for Thursday’s leg 1, they made a navigation error and went to the wrong checkpoint. Because of this, they missed one of their potential fuel spots and eventually ran out of gas. The women had to spend the night in the desert, until rally officials were able to deliver fuel. They didn’t return to the bivouac until 3:30 a.m.—just 30 minutes before Friday’s wake up call.

It was another tough day for Team 316 Mead/Marschner in the Mercedes Benz Sprinter van. They made 4 of the 8 CPs, but it was very difficult for them. They too ended up taking the pavement back to the bivaouc. USA Gazelles organizers report the team did very well in training, so it’s not known why they are having difficulties.

2015 Gazelle Rally
Team 317 driver Alyssa Roenigk. Photo by Nicole Dreon

The only American team in the Expert class, #400 Lerner/Howells, had an excellent run on what was a very tough leg. They completed their first 7 checkpoints easily, but the last took them over 2 hours to complete. Three of the expert teams did not find that last checkpoint, so look for #400 to move up in the ranks among some very experienced competition.

A few teams spent the night in the desert after Leg 1, not having returned to the bivouac. Teams have until late the next morning to make any CPs they didn’t get the day before and return to the bivouac so that they may continue with the next leg.

The ranking for Leg 1 was delayed as one team had done just that. Organizers were waiting for the team to arrive to check their data. Then the bivouac had to be moved to the next location, delaying the ranking report even further.

Rankings for Leg 2 should be out on Saturday, March 28th at 5am PST.

Organizers hint that Leg 3 may require a lot of shoveling, so let’s hope our USA Gazelles get a good night’s rest and are ready for tomorrow.

You can follow the Gazelle Rally live and send messages to the teams by going to

  • 23 Sara PRICE/Erica SACKS (Side x Side)
  • 316 Susan MEAD/Shennen MARSCHNER (Crossover)
  • 317 Alyssa ROENIGK/Chrissie BEAVIS (Crossover)
  • 107 Jo Hannah HOEHN/Susanah HOEHN (4×4)
  • 175 Susie SAXTEN/Sarah SAXTEN (4×4)
  • 180 Nicole PITELL-VAUGHAN/Jessi COMBS (4×4)
  • 182 Pat KLISHEVICH/Veronique DE SYBOURG-SIFFERT (Swiss) (4×4)
  • 183 Rebecca DONAGHE/Barabara FIORENTINO (4×4)
  • 218 Rachelle CROFT/Rhonda CAHILL (4×4)
  • 400 Amy LERNER/Sabrina HOWELLS (4×4, Expert)

About:  The Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles is a grueling test of driving skill and navigation across southern Morocco’s most beautiful and challenging terrain. The rally is unique whereby teams are not allowed technological assistance. In the absence of GPS, communications and service crews, teams must find the shortest distance between the checkpoints over nine days of competition with only the aid of traditional navigation – compass, outdated maps, and plotters. The event is an incredible test of endurance, patience, and teamwork, pushing competitors to their limits.

Team 182 is driving a 2008 Toyota FJ Cruiser. Here’s our take on the 2010.

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