American Expedition Vehicles
Sunday, 01 April 2012 10:07

Leg 6 Marathon Recap

The final marathon leg of the Rallye Aicha des Gazelles was marked by a torrential downpour in the Sahara creating muddy conditions, sandstorms and difficult driving situations. Competitors were faced with difficult decisions in a field where the top ten were exceptionally close in the ranking. 2011 Gazelle winner, and Olympic Gold Medalist, Carole Montillet and navigator Julie Verdaguer clinched the win with a stunning 122.39 points, a course record.

The final marathon leg caused a significant change in the top ten standings. U.S. Team Lerner Reina #107 chose a route around the dunes to reach the first X CP, adding kilometers to their score but saving their vehicles from possible resulting mechanical issues and navigation errors in extremely difficult terrain. The choice cost #203 of Jacinto and Carvalhosa second place as the third place team #170 of James and Pham (also VW) chose a much more direct line. However, the decision proved the right one for Team Lerner Reina who moved from 10th to an impressive 8th place in the highly competitive 4x4 category. The team of sisters entered their first Gazelle Rally in 2011 with minimal off-road and navigation experience. Their stunning top ten finish was the result of solid training, the capable AEV equipped Jeep Rubicon and making smart decisions every step of the way - both driving and navigating. They are the second US team to place in the top ten after the US reached the podium in 2011.

The last and final leg, which took place Wednesday and Thursday between the towns of M'Hamid and Foum Zguid, covered an optimal 255 kms over dunes, dry lake beds, and roads. The first check point on Wednesday was difficult for most teams, as acceleration over the wet dunes with poor visibility lead to extreme challenges. A crash occurred between Teams 163 and 172 as they advanced to Checkpoint (CP) 5X, unable to see even a few feet in front of their hoods.