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Wednesday, 25 March 2015 08:35

Amy Lerner and the 2015 Rally Aicha des Gazelles Featured

Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles
March 20 –April 15, 2015 

Amy Lerner and her navigator Sabrina Howells will join over 300 women from 32 countries to compete in the 25th edition of the Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles. Crossing over 3,500 km of harsh terrain throughout Southern Morocco, the Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles is grueling off-road rally that has gained the well-deserved reputation as the toughest all-women’s sporting event. Teams face massive dunes, steep rocky mountains, dry riverbeds and lots and lots of sand. The rally is unique whereby teams are not allowed technological assistance. In the absence of GPS, communications and service crews, teams must find the shortest distance between the checkpoints over nine days of competition with only the aid of traditional navigation – compass, outdated maps, and plotters. The event is an incredible test of endurance, patience, and teamwork, pushing competitors to their limits.

Amy Lerner is a professional off-road rally driver and has competed in a number of challenging races under some of the world’s most demanding environments. She holds a Production win, Overall Safari Production win and a Dakar Challenge at 2013’s Australasian Safari Rally following a top-ten finish in 2012’s Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles. She has also won the Logica EcoChallenge for the most ecofriendly driving in the 4×4 class.  The 2015 Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles will be her first time competing in the 4x4 Expert class. 

Lerner will once again be behind the wheel of her 2012 AEV Wrangler JK350. This is the same vehicle that she drove to a top-ten finish in the 2012 Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles and scored multiple wins in the 2013 Australasian Safari Rally. Aside from a few safety modifications and race components, this AEV JK350 Wrangler is the same vehicle that can be purchased through any one of our AEV Certified Dealerships.

Everyone here at AEV wishes Amy and Sabrina the best of luck as they compete in the 2015 Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles. Official competition begins on Wednesday, March 25th and you can join us in tracking Team Lerner’s (#400 – Expert Class) progress online at  http://www.rallyeaichadesgazelles.com/en/Rally/2015/the-teams/.  

Thursday, 03 October 2013 14:02

Austrailian Safari - Gascoyne River

When we read that in the roadbook for Leg 4 SS1, I admit to panicking a bit. I'd done water crossings but 600 meters worth? We hunted down some of the repeat Safari competitors and learned it was just a river bed so 600m of sand, reminiscent I'm sure of the fesh fesh we found in Morocco. The key would be to keep moving. Or try to jump it maybe?

No such axle breaking fun for us, we just drove across. The rest of the leg was pretty brutal, filled with cautions; single, double and triple. A caution in the roadbook is marked by 1, 2 or 3 exclamation points. As it was explained to us, a single caution, you can take a look and maybe slow a bit. For a double, you want to slow much more. For the rare triples, it's time to crawl. The rest of the leg was spent zooming when possible but mostly slowing down for creeks, gutters, hairpin turns through gates and just general roughness. Tricia was really on top of her game as the instructions came fast and often.

SS2 was much more of a driver's stage with more smooth sweeping sections with fewer instructions and a chance to run up some speed. We got our first sight of emu and a rare sighting of a dingo (no baby in mouth). The biggest excitement of the day was pulling into the bivouac and Dan Cambell-Lloyd saying to us "You didn't blow your engine?". There was a mix up somewhere on the radio and our crew was expecting us to be pulled in by recovery, not wheeling in as usual. Given the number of competitors who had mechanical problems or crashes by that point, we were happy to have that rumor be false.

Image Gallery

Thursday, 03 October 2013 13:56

Austrailian Safari - Leg 2

Well, we had good intentions of posting on a daily basis as we went through Safari but the combination of spotty wifi and plain old fatigue put us off. Now for some catch up -

Leg 2 was the first introduction to bull dust, otherwise known as "Stop the car! We must have a flat" Yes, it's that slick. It looks tame enough; dark, soft and the color of an old terra cotta pot. I learned quite quickly to be very alert for changes in the color of the dirt we were driving on. After backing down a little on speed, we began to get the hang of where and when to slow into turns and crests to not lose control. The time we spent in Morocco proved very valuable in recognizing the changes in terrain that required a change in speed. A single km of track would often contain many types of dirt along with the occasional anthill, gutter or dry creek crossing.

The following day was more of the same in the Gascoyne Junction area. Stage 1 was like a preview for the much longer Stage 2, which took over 4 hours to complete. We really became aware of the hazards on the course. One of the autos, a Holden, rolled the day before and there were several competitors who were already out of the race due to mechanical problems. Our strategy of "stay smart, get to the finish" looked like a good one and we just needed to hang tight. Minor issues like a flat between SS1 and SS2 plagued us, leading to a return to the bivouac almost in the dark. We started the stage late but even with the tire change delay, finished in plenty of time and avoided any late penalties.

Monday, 23 September 2013 05:39

Australia Safari - Day 1 Blog

Australasian Safari Rally Leg 1 complete. We made it through and back to the bivouac intact and happy. 

SS 1 took us along the beach through sandy tracks filled with hidden rocks then up and over some farmland trails.  After yesterday's prologue, we had a lot of the nerves shaken out so we came into it ready to go.

For SS 2, we headed inland a bit and found wide open tracks filled with soft white sand.  This is where we had a chance to test our speed.  Lots of sweeping turns and gentle inclines and long sections with few instructions so it really was fun to drive.  The AEV suspension was great, we've seen reviews of it's performance at speed on a track and we're happy to say we saw the same performance in the sand.

We were particularly looking forward to SS3 today.  From the road book, it looked like a "Jeep leg" - creek crossings, steep inclines and rough washouts.  Most of the 140 km was inside the Murchison Off Road Park  ( highly recommended stop during a visit to Western Australia and the kind of place I'd love to have near home).  The Jeep performed admirably and we saw some carnage from teams that had been through earlier; bumper pieces, snorkel parts and some downed fence posts.

Day one of the Safari Rally is complete and we're really happy with how we're doing.  Many of the repeat competitors have advised us to stay smart and that just completing Safari is a significant accomplishment.   We think that sounds like good advice - tomorrow is a long day and there are five more behind it. 

Leg 2 - Bull Dust!  Long day but a good one.  More to follow.

Once my sister Tricia and I decided we would compete again in the Rallye Aicha des Gazelles, I started my research to try to find what would be the perfect vehicle for such a unique competition.  We competed the first time in a rented 2007 H3, which unfortunately suffered electrical problems mid-competition leaving us with no controls for any of the functions you'd want to use off road.  When we got home, I spent hours poring over stats and reviews and kept coming back to the Wrangler.  I had driven one for the first time during our initial off road training with Rod Hall. It was nimble and capable, but seemed a bit underpowered.  After learning of the upgrade to the engine and transmission for 2012, I decided the JK was the way to go.  Our experiences with the H3 taught me that there were some modifications needed to make the Jeep even more suitable for the Rally.  Back to my research… countless hours on Jeep forums and many news articles later, I had my wish list of names to build our Jeep.  It had one company on it: AEV.  After what I'm sure felt to Dave Harriton like a thousand daily phone calls, AEV got on board to build the Team Lerner Jeep.

The objective of the Gazelle Rally is to take the shortest path possible from checkpoint to checkpoint, which makes the ability to drive over – instead of around – any terrain you encounter an important key to success.  Another major factor is comfort.  The Gazelle Rally is 9 days of competition, days that start at 4 am and can end 14 hours later, with up to 250km of rough terrain in between.  Minimizing driver fatigue definitely helps a team's performance and decision making.  Knowing what we would be facing in Morocco, AEV's ability to modify a Jeep and significantly improve it’s off road performance while still maintaining its integrity and comfort was something I looked forward to experiencing.
 
In terms of the specifics of our build, every AEV component gave us benefits.  The Heat Reduction Hood (aside from being a thing of beauty from the driver's seat) and Snorkel meant we never were one of the teams waiting at a checkpoint with their hood up for their engine to cool down.  Overheating was just not an issue.  I was a tad nervous about the 3.5" DualSport Suspension, having never spent time in a 'lifted' vehicle, but I could not have been more pleased with the performance.  The Suspension made crossing fields of camel grass a breeze compared to the struggle we had in the H3.  Tight, quick turns at speed at the top of a sand dune felt stable and secure.  We had none of the 'seat of the pants' sensation we felt last year.  The right tires (BFG All Terrains) made a difference as well.  Having our recovery gear secured yet easy to access on the Rear Tire Carrier freed up valuable storage space inside the vehicle.  Even the Rear Bumper’s water reservoir made us happy.  It stored our required 5 liter emergency water supply much better than that leaky plastic container bouncing around the back.
   
Here's how the Prologue (half day warm-up) went in the Team Lerner Reina Jeep:

Tricia: "There's some sand, let's go around."

Amy: "No, I want to try it."

Tricia: "That looks really rough up there, let's go around."

Amy: "No, I want to go across."

By the end of the first few hours, we both had the confidence in our AEV JK to know that our competitive strategy was going to be "Just go straight".  That's what we were able to do.  The driving was so enjoyable that by the last couple of days, I was looking for terrain challenges and hoping our route would take us there just for the fun of driving them.   We finished 8th out of 129 teams in the 4x4 category.  To make the top ten means that you kept up with professional drivers, custom built vehicles, automotive manufacturer sponsored teams, and some very experienced Gazelles.  In the Gazelle Rally, your vehicle really is your third teammate, and our AEV built Jeep performed well above our expectations.  It was easy to drive, it was fun to drive, and I never felt our route choices were constrained by our vehicle.  Wherever we needed to go, the Jeep went with ease, confidence and a heck of a lot of enjoyment.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012 05:46

Another Great Piece by Truck Trend

Nice summary by Truck Trend highlighting the incredible showing by Team Lerner Reina in what was only their 2nd year as a rally team.

Truck Trend - U.S. Team Lerner Reina Places Eighth Overall in 2012 Rallye Aicha des Gazelles Morocco

Tuesday, 10 April 2012 07:03

Team Lerner Reina on ESPN and Truck Trend

Following their tremendous 8th place finish at this year's Rallye Aicha des Gazelles Team Lerner Reina is receiving some much deserved media attention stateside. Check out the links below to read what ESPN and Truck Trend had to say about the top U.S. rally team!

ESPN

Truck Trend

AEV is incredibly happy with Team Lerner Reina's 8th place overall finish and 1st place Logica Eco-Drive Challenge finish at the Gazelle Rally. We'd also like to thanks Dan Campbell-Lloyd for sending us such great photos throughout the rally. Here are a few more from the last day!

After nine days of intense competition through the Sahara Desert, Olympic Gold Medalist and vetern off-road racer Carole Montillet and navigator Julie Verdaguer won the 2012 Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles. However, U.S. Team # 107 Amy Lerner and Tricia Reina, won the coveted Logica Challenge for eco-driving.

Established in 2009 by Logica, a global business and technology service company based out of the U.K., the Logica Challenge coincides with the Gazelle Rally's continued environmental responsibility. The Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles takes every step in its commitment to environmental efforts, as the competition is not based on speed but rather the shortest distance traveled for competitors. Not only is the rally the only motorsport event globally with ISO 14001 Certification having adopted strict environmental mandates and commitment, the event also includes various initiatives which take place during the event. The Gazelle has proven a rally raid can successfully practice eco–friendly techniques.

For the third consecutive year, Logica has spearheaded a challenge for Gazelle Rally participants - reduce CO2 emssions and practice a commitment to eco-driving. Logica accomplishes this task through emissions monitoring by placing a box connected to the On Board Diagnoistics (OBDII) in each vehicle, capturing real time information on how drivers perform eco driving. The box was developed by Logica and measures real time carbon dioxide emissions.  

Every day, after teams arrived at the bivouac, each vehicle's EMO was checked. Points were calculated, earned, and adjusted based on set, acceptable averages and driver technique. This places the responsbility on drivers, highlighting the importance of a driver's influence on emissions as opposed to the vehicle alone. In the Crossover Class, Logica scoring was actually factored into the competition results.

For the entire eight-day competition including the prologue stage, prerformance was measured and penalties were given based on the following criteria which violate eco-driving practices:

-Engine idling
-Hard braking
-Hard acceleration
-High speed - above 80km/hour

Amy Lerner, driver for Team #107 stated, "If I can perform strongly during the dunes and this intense competition, that means a driver can practice eco-driving on the road as well." Amy and her sister, Tricia Reina, participated in the Gazelle Rally last year and came in 4th place in the Logica Challenge. This year, the sister duo made up their minds to win. "Within the challenge last year, we landed in 4th place. This year we're 1st in the 4x4 class. It wasn't our primary focus to win the Logica Challenge in 2011, but Tricia and I were hypersensitive about it this year, and it paid off." It certainly did.

 

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