Stuttgart/Erfoud – This morning saw the beginning of the Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles 2016 in Morocco, the world’s only off-road event exclusively for women. The around 160 competing teams can now look forward to the challenge of ten days in the desert. Among them: four teams from Mercedes-Benz Vans, at the wheel of a Sprinter 4×4 and a Vito 4×4.
The gazelles with the star
- Bianca Manz and Alexandra Jansen. Engineers at Daimler AG. Their first time in the starting line-up.
- Viola Hermann and Vanessa Wagner. Goldsmith and master plumber/ heating installer. The second time they’ve competed. Entered in the race in cooperation with the German trade and craft newspaper “Deutsche Handwerks Zeitung”.
- Madeleine Oster and Catrin Peest. Master carpenter/roofer and master joiner. Their first time in the starting line-up. Entered in the race in cooperation with the German trade and craft newspaper “Deutsche Handwerks Zeitung”.
- Eva Holzhäuser and Nicole Marquardt. Doctor and sales expert. Their first time in the starting line-up. Entered in the race in cooperation with the online magazine “Mercedes-Fans.de.”
The eight gazelles qualified to take part after a tough selection process. The decisive factors were: physical fitness, knowledge of French, driving skills and technical know-how.
Mercedes-Benz rally vans
The rally is taking the teams across 2500 kilometres of scree fields, dried-out river beds and the dunes of the Sahara. Thus the teams rely on Mercedes-Benz all-wheel-drive vans.
- Manz/Jansen and Oster/Peest in a Sprinter 316 BlueTEC 4×4
rated at 120 kW (163 hp) output.
- Hermann/Wagner and Holzhäuser/Marquardt in a Vito 119 BlueTEC 4×4 rated at 140 kW (190 hp) output.
Drivetrain, engine and vehicle electronics are near to production standard with just some slight modifications. These include: roll cages, underbody protection, bucket seats and special tyres.
Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles
From Erfoud, in the east of Morocco, the teams head west to Morocco’s Atlantic coast. Their final destination is the port city of Essaouira. The rally is divided into six stages, including two marathon legs each over two days with overnight stops in the desert. It is not speed that counts, but completing the individual stages with as few kilometres as possible on the clock. The special challenge: the teams are only allowed to use a map and compass for navigation.