2016 Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles underway in Morocco – race-deZert.com

2016 Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles underway in Morocco

Rally Gazelles Logo

2016 Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles underway in Morocco
Eight American teams complete Prologue; competition starts Thursday

ERFOUD, Morocco (Wednesday, March 23, 2016) — The 26th edition of the Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles kicked off near Erfoud, Morocco, on Wednesday with a prologue leg. The opening day’s results establish the departure grid for the start of scored competition on Thursday, while also serving as a shakedown for teams and their vehicles after the long trip to Morocco.

“For us, the goal was to rank as high as possible for Thursday’s leg, so we would be one of the first teams off the line,” said veteran navigator Chrissie Beavis, who won the Crossover class in 2015 and is competing this year alongside driver Nicole Pitell-Vaughan. “Leg 1 has historically been really hard, so the more time you have on the course, with a better start position, the bigger the advantage.”

Beavis and Pitell-Vaughan are among eight American teams competing in the event this year — all in the 4×4 class. All eight achieved their checkpoints during the Prologue leg and will be placed in start order for Day 1 on Thursday.

Considered the most prestigious all-women’s motorsport event in the world, 162 international teams took the line in 2016. The unique competition is an off-road test of dead reckoning navigation across 1,500 miles of rugged desert terrain.

Teams of two, a driver and navigator, must pilot their vehicles to a series of hidden checkpoints using only maps and compasses, before meeting each night in a series of desert encampments. The challenge is strictly analog; GPS and other electronic aids are prohibited for the duration. The team that achieves the most direct route, chalking up the fewest miles over the course of nine competition days, is the winner.

This year’s rally runs from March 23 to March 31. Daily recaps and photo galleries are available for download at http://bit.ly/1RmgiLG Final results are presented at the closing gala April 2 in the coastal town of Essaouira, Morocco.

Rally Gazelles Karen Hoehn Selfie PR

Karen Hoehn takes a heading with her teammate Maureen Gibbons.
Photo: Nicole Dreon / Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles

Rally Aïcha des Gazelles
USA Teams Notes and Quotes
March 23, 2016 – Prologue

Location: El Beida
Ideal distance: 45 km (28 miles)
Estimated time 2:00
Checkpoints: 4

Team #180: Nicole Pitell-Vaughan (Corona, California) / Chrissie Beavis (San Diego, California): Toyota Tacoma
Competing in her second rally after winning the First Time Participation class in 2015, Pitell-Vaughan explains why she has returned: “Morocco is a fascinating place to travel and absorb the culture. Cities like Rabat are chaotic with traffic and people and high-rise buildings. Then you get into remote areas where you can drive for hours and see only one goat herder, and you have no idea where he came from.”

Team #107: Susanah Hoehn (Carlsbad, California) / Jo Hannah Hoehn (Carlsbad, California): Land Rover LR4
Competing together for the third year, sisters Jo Hannah and Susanah Hoehn are hoping to improve on their best place finish of 12th in the 4×4 class in 2015. Jo Hannah Hoehn says: “I feel like you have to get your feet wet every time you get to the rally. There were some checkpoints today that we came directly on which was very validating and then one where we were like, ‘what happened?'”

Teams will head into the notorious Erg Chebbi dunes Saturday during the first marathon leg. Susanah Hoehn says that even seeing them in the distance was intimidating: “It’s like walking through a haunted house and knowing something is going to jump out at you. They are so big and so distinct. They are such a symbol of the rally.”

On having their mother, Karen Hoehn, entered this year as a first-time competitor, Jo Hannah says she is confident: “In the rally you worry about people who break down emotionally. The thing that is the scariest in the rally is being afraid. We never worry about our mom in that regard. We know if she gets stuck she won’t freak out.”

Team #181 Karen Hoehn (Del Mar, California) / Maureen Gibbons (Del Mar, California): Land Rover LR4
After watching daughters Jo Hannah and Susanah compete in the rally in both 2014 and 2015, Karen Hoehn decided to join the competition. Entered with longtime friend Maureen Gibbons, who is also a first-time competitor, Hoehn says she is doing the rally as a way to celebrate her 60th birthday later this year and is realistic about her chances: “I want to give it my best efforts, but my goals are realistic to my level of experience. To find several, if not all, of the checkpoints and be able to return to the bivouac each night, regardless of our mileage, will be just fine with me.”

Team #178 Emme Hall (Oakland, California) / Sabrina Howells (Los Angeles, California): Land Rover Defender
Returning to the rally together for the third time, Sabrina Howells and Emme Hall expect to be competitive. Driving a Land Rover Defender for the first time, Hall says: “It’s a tank. I can’t go up any hills unless I’m in first gear, but it literally wants to crawl over all the rough stuff, which makes it so fun. I’m a little bit worried about the dunes, but I would worry about the dunes no matter what car I was in.”

Team #182 Teresa Stewart (Kauai, Hawaii) / Sara Jehn (Oahu, Hawaii): Jeep Wrangler
The mother/daughter team of Teresa Stewart and Sara Jehn, from Hawaii, had a solid prologue and feel confident going into the first leg on Thursday: “It was a lot more fun than I was expecting it to be,” says Jehn. “I thought it was going to be stressful figuring out all the moving parts, but it turned out not to be that big of a deal. We are thrilled with our first day.”

Stewart says: “When you come up over the hill and see the flag for the first time, it feels amazing. You never know if your navigation is going to hold true.”

Team # 184 Susie Saxten (Encinitas, California) / Ivy Cass (Encinitas, California): Jeep Wrangler
Competing for the second time in the event Susie Saxten says her experience gave her a boost on Wednesday: “I think I had a lot more running through my head on the start line this year, whereas last year I just didn’t know what was going on. I’ve been working on my navigation strategy. The biggest thing is to take time on important decisions and less time on less important decisions.”

Team #127: Catherine Chiadmi (St. Petersburg, Florida) / Cecile Vinson (Vaucluse, France): Jeep Wrangler
Achieved checkpoints on Prologue. Not immediately available for comment.

Team #188 Elaine Newkirk (Rancho Santa Fe, California) / Keely Sellers (Kihei, Hawaii): Jeep Wrangler
Achieved checkpoints on Prologue. Not immediately available for comment.

Recaps and photo galleries available for download daily at: http://bit.ly/1RmgiLG
Additional images and video footage available upon request.

Contact: [email protected] / +1 (310) 962-2729

Official website: http://www.rallyeaichadesgazelles.com/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *