Foumz Zguid, Morocco – Fierce competition was in the air during the final leg of the 2013 Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles. The two day Marathon Leg consisted of the famous Chegaga dunes, navigation challenges for even the most experienced teams and a surprising twist with the two top contenders suffering mechanical failures. The teams called in for mechanical assistance resulting in a 200 penalty point each and an instant shake up in the top ten standings.
Team #160 Jacinto/Dot, piloting a factory VW Amarok, called in for mechanical assistance at around 11:00 am Thursday near CP6 in the dunes. Their vehicle’s oil pan was damaged by what is assumed to be abuse over the rough nine-days of rocky terrain and they lost over 2 liters of oil. Mechanics drove out to repair the engine and the team drove back to the bivouac late in the evening at very low speed to prevent a second call to the mechanical team. Previously holding the number one position the entire length of the rally with 79.56 penalty points, the team had an additional 200 penalty points added to their score with mechanical aid and also missed the remaining check points.
Returning champions Team #187 Montillet/Verdaguer, who held second place the past three days with a score of 81.88 prior to the final stage, had a major problem with their cooling system. They filled up the system several times during the leg as the vehicle’s overheating alarm repeatedly went off. However, speculation is the repeated abuse from the week took its toll. From consistent refills to the system, the team did not have enough water for the radiator to return to the bivouac. Mechanics repaired the vehicle on spot after the call was placed at 4:30 pm.
For American team #136, the first day proved difficult according to driver Hamilton. “At CP2, there were small dunes which you think would be easy, but there were no distinctive features for us, no point of reference. At one point, we didn’t know where we were and it was very difficult to take a heading.”
The team bounced back later in the day with smooth driving amidst a steering alignment issue that began at CP 5X. Beavis, who is also a mechanic, was unsure of what cause the issue. “At one point Bethany put the car in reverse and the steering became easier. I’m not sure what was going on but luckily we were able to finish out the dunes.”
With Team #136 holding a steady 11th place with 357.19 points before the final leg, they climbed up 3 spots to an 8th place finish overall. For first time competitors plus given the fact Hamilton has no off-road experience, it’s impressive to say the least. For Beavis, whose goal was to win the First Participation Challenge and place in the Top Ten, the result is rewarding. “Compared to rally racing where in the blink of an eye my 3-day competition is over, I pretty much went in blind. This has been an incredibly grueling race with lots of highs and lows, but overall I have to say some fantastic competiiton took place here and it’s been an experience of a lifetime.”
Returning Team #107 Lerner/Reina, who placed an impressive 6th for Stage 5, entered the Final Stage in 42nd place and went for the X CPs. In total, the leg was 210 km with 9 CPs, 3 being X. Lerner stated, ” We got stuck once because we hesistated; however, we learned a lot last year about navigation and that helped tremendously.” When it’s clear you can see the mountains and it helps you know where you are. ” With a solid run the past few days, Lerner/Reina jumped up from 42nd place to 34th.
To find more information on all participating teams please visit: www.AichaGazelleRally.com