80% new Gazelles at the start of the 31st edition

Nice | Verifications

Despite the early hour, enthusiasm and excitement were in the air this Friday morning in Nice at the dawn of this first day dedicated to technical and administrative checks. The Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles du Maroc is finally starting for the teams!

Some Gazelles have been waiting for this day for several years, others for less, but all share the same excitement! And despite the early hour, smiles can be seen under the masks. " This is great, getting up at dawn this morning will help us get into the swing of things “, quips Victoria, of Team 137 (Fanny RIVAS / Victoria MAQUIN - Many thanks to our families and friends for their support!). The big day is finally here for the teams of the 31e edition of the Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles du Maroc, who have come together at the Nikaïa Palace in Nice for administrative and technical checks.

The checks begin with a PCR test. The Gazelles must provide a negative test to be able to board the ferry tomorrow, bound for Morocco. " We were very careful and we tested ourselves every day to make sure we could leave. ", confides Elodie, of Team 168 (Audrey MARRO / Elodie OLAGNIER). Once this first procedure is done, the Gazelles receive their precious vest, the garment that truly marks their entry into the Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles du Maroc 2022 adventure.

A vest that supports the cause of women

This year's vest is white with an orange border. As usual, it bears the coat of arms of the Kingdom of Morocco because the rally takes place under the high patronage of his Majesty King Mohamed VI. This year the vest also bears another symbol: it is tagged by César Malfi, a young graffiti artist from Nice, in support of the National Women's Solidarity Federation. This feminist association offers several measures to help women victims of violence and their children and manages the emergency number 3919. On the vest, we can also read the words wake up  and resist : two universal words addressed to the women of the world. The lower back shows Themis, the goddess of justice, holding a balance in her left hand symbolizing the balance of the male-female relationship !

In addition to the vest, each team receives several gifts offered by rally partners : a Bosch Car Service cooler, very practical for keeping water cool in the middle of the desert, a key ring, a hat and a buff from Goodyear, a Koni notebook, as well as a water bottle from Nutella/Kinder. " We've received such a great welcome “, enthuse Amandine and Cybèle of Team 507 (Amandine LEONARD / Cybele SERIN - Tomra Sorting GmbH). All these gestures help make the real start a reality. " We were impatiently waiting to leave. We've been preparing since 2017 and we should have come in 2020, but we couldn't because Nathalie is from Canada and in September it was impossible for her to travel. ", explains Miriam of Team 222 (Miriam DIB / Nathalie BRETON - HARVEST). It's time for the first pictures to immortalize their entry into the adventure.

Meetings and reunions

This morning of checks is also an opportunity to reconnect with friends met during the navigation training courses held at Maienga, in Villeneuve-lès-Avignon and to meet the organizing team, starting with Dominique Serra, the creator of the event and general manager of Maïenga, and Rallye director Marina Serra-Vrillacq. " I congratulate you all. I know it has been difficult for some and that some have had to make sacrifices to be here. You will now be able to benefit from all that energy ", announces Dominique from the outset. We already feel a good rapport between the teams. " Because of Covid, we have changed our way of working and we organized regular meetings between Gazelles via Zoom. It allowed the teams to discuss their project, to re-motivate themselves » underlines Élodie, team relations manager.

After the briefing, the teams receive more gifts : a Gazelles cap and a pair of sunglasses, two accessories that will be essential out on the course. They can now visit the various workshops scattered around the grounds of the Nikaïa Palace.

Essential checks for a safe start

It's not all fun and games at the Palais Nikaïa this Friday, March 18, The vehicles provide quite a spectacle, parked in careful precision , forming a real ballet. There are 4×4 of course but also SSVs and electric vehicles. These three categories of vehicles will be on the starting line of this 31e edition. In all, 194 teams are gathered, representing a dozen different nationalities. There are French and Moroccan competitors, of course, but also several Canadians who are present this year after having missed the 30e edition last September.

Several workshops are organized to check the compliance of the vehicles. The cars are first stickered with the logos of the various rally partners. They are then equipped with several essential safety devices. The Iritrack is a satellite tracking system, which allows Rally HQ to follow the real-time position of the teams. This device, permanently powered by the battery, is connected to satellites. It is therefore a key safety element on the rally and has several buttons. Blue allows communication with the Rally HQ. If they need technical assistance, the Gazelles can also press the green button , but it will cost them penalty points. The red button is used to request urgent medical assistance or in the event of an accident.. There is obviously no penalty for this type of assistance.

The Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles du Maroc, a unique concept

The vehicles are also equipped with a Sarsat checkpoint, equipment generally used for races at sea such as the Vendée Globe. When triggered, it sends a distress signal around the world. Rallye HQ is then informed and obtains the coordinates of the vehicle in order to organize an intervention. " This yellow box has existed since the mid-70s and is also used on airplanes or in extreme environments.. " Finally, the organization installs a device called Unik, which is used to record the number of kilometers driven. At the Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles du Maroc, speed is not important ! Here, the concept is unique and is based on old-fashioned navigation with only map, compass and without GPS with one goal: travel as few kilometers as possible between point A and point B. It is therefore sometimes necessary to cross difficult terrain, which takes time! There's a lot of strategy involved!

It's a long day for the organizers who see 156 teams, i.e. 312 over-excited Gazelles, before the big start the next day. The technical, administrative and medical checks are not quite finished... The SSV/Quad teams as well as those renting in Morocco will meet on Monday afternoon, in Erfoud , at the gates of the Moroccan desert, for the same procedures! In the meantime, the port of Nice will be celebrating this Saturday for the official start of the 31e edition !