A first leg with a steep learning curve

Leg 1

It was the first real day out on the terrain for the Gazelles, and an opportunity for teams to get their bearings with better weather conditions than the day before. On the program: a few mistakes and some valuable lessons!

The wind seems to have died down a little for this first leg, enough to reassure the teams. " We're going to try to take it easys “, explains Odile of Team 163 (Odile BOUTARIN / Sylvie MABILE - HOLDING VAUCHEL). " We are going to avoid difficulties because we have to make it through eight days, so we plan to slowly “, confirms her teammate Sylvie. Team 250 (Christèle DEJEUX / Cécile FLEURY-COLLONGE - ORTHOPAEDIC STUDIO) considers the leg in the same way: We'll stick to the tracks to avoid problems. We're here to enjoy ourselves, not to stress ", comment Christèle and Cécile.

For this first leg, the start is given by Moroccan actress Sarah Perles in the name ofAfriquia, partner of the Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles du Maroc. Just a few meters after the start line, many teams stop to take their headings. The Gazelles are taking advantage of the fact that the wind has died down, which gives them better visibility. And what a view: the sun rising over the acacias is simply magical ! And the rest of the leg is just as scenic, since the Gazelles will drive all day with the majestic Erg Chebbi dunes in the background.

Impressive driving

At the first checkpoint, the teams settle in to plot their points for the day. Anne-Marie and Karima of Team 153 (Karima LAAROUSSI MOUHYI / Anne-Marie BORG - SUPAVIA) take out their camping table for more comfort. The two Gazelles are concentrated, the stakes are high for these two former Gazelles who are hoping for a podium finish. Sandrine and Sarah of Team 160 (Sarah VALLY / Sandrine MIGNOL - THB Solutions) . " We made a mistake when leaving the small dunes; we'll try to make up for it ". " We are telling ourselves that we must be a bit masochistic because we're struggling but enjoying it “, joke Sophie and Sylvie of Team 115 (Sylvie GRANDJEAN / Sophie BERNARD - LCL). For some Gazelles, the day gets off to a rough start. This is the case for Dany and Alexandra, who call on the help of other Gazelles to plot their position.

Meanwhile, Jeanette, of Team 105 (Claire RODIER / Jeanette JAMES - Bumper Off Road), an extremely experienced Gazelle, tackles a tough route across rough terrain that impresses the new Gazelles. A few minutes later, Christelle and Caroline of Team 123 (Caroline DESSEIGNE / Christelle DAGOIS)attempt the same arduous passage. It takes them several attempts to get there. There's a feeling that the competition is tight and that the Gazelles do not want to waste a single meter. " I expected it to be easier exclaims Christelle, who gets out of her 4×4 to analyze where to go because “ the sand is soft ».

Learning to trust themselves

After the second checkpoint, some Gazelles get a bit lost and find themselves on the wrong route. This is the case for Teams 109 (Alienor DORE--du PEYRAT / Ava MARTIN - iQo) et 245 (AMAIA EGANA IGUINIZ / LOREA MARCONE - Eirl Laforge Fabien AXA Assurance Bayonne) who are happy to run into Lydie and Elisabeth of Team 601 (Elisabeth SEVIN / Lydie BLAISE - Izivia) so they can try to replot their position, as the electric buggy team is on the right route. How did the teams get it wrong? " While crossing the hilly area, we went off course because we had no distant features to navigate off “, deduces Amaia of Team 245 (AMAIA EGANA IGUINIZ / LOREA MARCONE - Eirl Laforge Fabien AXA Assurance Bayonne) who adds: In total, we didn't do that many extra kilometers because the checkpoint was just a bit lower ". " We were pretty sure it was not the right CP but we saw the flag in the distance ", continues the Gazelle. The moral of the day: the participants need to learn to trust themselves!

This lack of confidence does not only affect the novices. Hajar and Malika of Team 310 (HAJAR ELBIED / MALIKA AJAHA - DACIA)are uncertain because of the sandstorm that picked up again and because of the lack of visibility. At checkpoint 4, Malika decides to get out several meters ahead to check that it is the right checkpoint. Some Gazelles, on the other hand, put in a solid performance. " It's a good first day. We're driving at 30 km/h to be sure not to break anything; my Gazelle gets pretty drowsy but we are doing well “, laughs Véro of Team 126 (Véronique DARBON / Severine DALLARD - Suzon driving school). For Sabine and Isabelle of Team 304 (Isabelle RADENAC / Sabine BONNET PARDO - Dacia), the day started badly when the Gazelles found themselves at checkpoint 6 in the morning, but they made up for it. " We made the rookie mistake of saying “oh a flag!" but then we were the first to arrive at each CP, that really re-motivated us ". And so much the better, as they will need motivation for the second leg!

The Gazelles touched by their visit to the Cœur de Gazelles caravan

In the meantime, the Gazelles are invited to stop at the Merzouga school to discover the work of Cœur de Gazelles. " I've done the rally twice and it's the first time I've been able to come and see how it works, so I'm delighted " says Claire of Team 105 (Claire RODIER / Jeanette JAMES - Bumper Off Road). " We hear about it a lot when we sign up and it's great to discover these passionate and generous people. It's wonderful! ", enthuses the Gazelle.

Marina is present to welcome the teams and she explains to them how the caravan works. Pharmacy, prevention, optics and ophthalmology… The 200 children of the day meet with the specialists, some for the first time in their lives. « We didn't expect that, it's very touching “, says Manon of Team 118 (Juliette MOREAU / Manon BURGER - EPSA), pleasantly surprised to discover that the work of Cœur de Gazelles doesn't stop at the end of the rally but that there is a real follow-up year-round ". Despite the fatigue of this first day, many other teams stop. " We couldn't miss it “say Sandrine and Sarah. A great ending to this first day!