Friday’s Leg Two of the Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles began with the steady pace brought forth by American Team #136 Beavis/Hamilton. The team rose in the morning to find themselves holding firmly on to 6th place, thanks to smooth, fast driving and carefully chosen lines leaving them at 5.04km points (ISUZU.) In front of them, top veterans such as Dakar driver Elisabete Jacinto and teammate Valerie Dot (Team # 160 – VW) at 3.45 km, Jeannette James and teammate Anne-Marie Borg (Team # 161- VW) at 3.55 km points, Carole Montillet and teammate Julie Verdaguer (Team # 187- ISUZU) at 4.43 points, as well as Laura Nigido-Amisse and teammate Valerie Sanfourche (Team # 147 -ISUZU) at 4.50 and Angélique Alvergnas and teammate Sidonie Dubrule (Team # 162 – VW at 4.64 km.) American Team #136 Beavis/Hamilton is also in 2nd place in the ISUZU Media Challenge as of early Saturday the 23rd (with Women’s Adventure Magazine as media partner) and 1st place in the 1st time Competitor Challenge. It’s noteworthy that Hamilton has no professional driving experience and this is her first time competing in a rally raid.
The day started off on a less positive note for another team, #178 Emme Hall and Sabrina Howells. They found their Isuzu D-Max in the morning with a flat tire, resulting in the inability to leave the start line at their designated time. Luckily, they received help from another team, and were able to leave an hour after scheduled time.
With weather conditions calming down since the previous day’s leg, light winds and moderate sun made for clear visibility for the teams. A few rough conditions out in the Sahara did provide obstacles the teams could not have foreseen.
At checkpoint 7, around ten teams thought they reached the checkpoint (CP) dead-on, only to see the actual flag was down below their plotted point in a seemingly unreachable plateau. Countless teams were stuck for over an hour, pacing back and forth trying to figure the best way out. Once decided, teams choose a line consisting of rock crawling. Team # 136 cut too early and ended up high centered on a huge rock. It took about 10-15 minutes for them to get out, with five Gazelles on the back left corner jumping on the truck to get traction as the competition vehicle did not have diff-lock. The issue resulted in a hold up of other teams waiting behind them for the line out and an additional 1-2 km cost on their points.
One great surprise was for Team # 182 Chiadmi/Klisevich, who reached CP 3 before many other teams, surprising themselves. Klisevhich mentioned the day before she was a bit disappointed in her team’s performance, however; seemed confident when met at the check point, stating her practice in off-roading over the years has assisted her tremendously in this particular competition where driving skills and driving smart are both key.
Team #107 Lerner/Reina found themselves in a lower ranking as of Friday; however, given their track record in this particular competition and sheer determination at this point it is still anyone’s game. Speaking with Lerner yesterday, she noted the Toyota FJ Cruiser she is driving is more “tank like” and handles differently than her anticipated vehicle, her AEV built Jeep but with her familiarity with the terrain significant issues are not expected.
An interesting terrain element of this particular leg is the “Moroccan cauliflower” a compressed sand moss that’s actually hard as rock and if driven over, results in many stuck vehicles. The cauliflower was sporadicly found througout the leg which teams had to keep a close eye on to prevent vehicle damage.
Friday the teams drove and navigated about 12 hours plus one hour to the bivouac. Many of the tops teams chose to not take the roads in the beginning, and other difficulties were had between 3 and 4 where there were very difficult canyons teams had to carefulluy rock into and out of, with only one road going through the canyon all under the watchful eye of two guard dogs.
Today is dunes day at the famed Erg Chebbi dunes, where teams must pick their lines carefully and choose to go to the various levels of checkpoints (X) – the easy way or the hard way.
Photos: Dan Campbell-Lloyd