Today the Gazelles got their first taste of navigating on Moroccan soil in the Prologue of the 2015 Gazelle Rally. Organizers set this up so teams can get a taste of what the Moroccan desert has to offer. It is designed to let teams practice their navigation and communication skills in a no-pressure situation. The Prologue consisted of easier terrain; a few hills and a little bit of sand. Still, this is the first time teams must transition from the old Moroccan maps to the actual Moroccan landscape.
The Prologue is also important for Gazelles to learn standard procedures at checkpoints and when they return to the bivouac. Team must first determine they are at the correct checkpoint (remember the teams are divided into groups, and each group has a different set of checkpoints) and get their paperwork validated by the checkpoint worker. At the bivouac teams must report their odometer reading, turn in all their CP paperwork, set up camp, refuel their vehicle, and talk to the mechanics.
For most teams, the result of the Prologue determines their starting order for the first day of competition. Vehicles are off the line starting at 6am. The first grid positions are highly coveted, as it allows the Gazelles more daylight. Every minute of light is precious in the Gazelle Rally.
This year marks the debut of the new Expert class. For these 14 teams, including American Team 400 Sabrina Howells and Amy Learner, in a Jeep Wrangler prepped by American Expedition Vehicles, the Prologue counts not only towards their grid placement but also towards their final ranking.
The Expert class will be closely watched, as it features multiple Gazelle Rally winners and podium finishers. The navigation will be more difficult, they will have more checkpoints, more distance between checkpoints, and more time spent in the dunes.
Team 400 got their first taste of the tough competition today on their Prologue. They were putting down some very straight lines until a navigational error took them off course. The team quickly corrected, but with teams like #403 Jeanette James/Anne-Marie Borg, who took home the win in 2014, and #407 Carole Montillet/Valerie Dot, who between them have 23 years of Gazelle Rally experience, there is little room for error.
Swiss/American Team 182 of Pat Klishevich and Veronique Seyferrit has already had mechanical problems. Their 2008 Toyota FJ Cruiser broke a strut mount. Klishevich is fairly handy with a wrench, but she was forced to call for mechanical help. The mechanics were able to patch them up to get them through the Prologue. A more solid repair was made overnight.
Four teams did not participate in the Prologue, including Americans Sara Price and Erica Sacks, due to Tuesday’s blizzard. Their transport vehicle carrying the #23 IMG Kawasaki Teryx side x side was not able to make it over the Atlas Mountains and into Erfoud. As of this writing it is not known where these four teams will be placed in tomorrow’s starting grid.
Teams are off the line on Thursday, March 26th at 6am local time, 11pm Wednesday March 25th PST. You can track them live and write to them by visiting www.gazellerally.com.
- 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.
The Gazelle Rally has a crossover class. Do you think the Subaru Outback would be a good choice?