The 24th Edition of the Rallye Aicha des Gazelles is already underway as teams make their way from all over the world to Morocco. The all-female Gazelle Rally is one of the toughest motorsports events on the planet, thought to be tougher than the Baja 1000 and Dakar. 160 teams charge their way through the Moroccan desert with no GPS. All navigation is done with a compass and an old map with points awarded for the shortest distance between checkpoints rather than the fastest time. The United States has four teams competing this year, with a mix of veterans and newbies.
Team 107 – Team Hoehn
Jo Hannah and Susanah Hoehn have always had an adventurous spirit. After graduating from The Bishop’s School in La Jolla, CA, the sisters headed east to attend Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH. Jo Hannah majored in Art History and graduated Magna Cum Laude. Susanah majored in Classical Studies with a focus in Roman Archaeology and was a member of the hip-hop dance group. The sisters jointly decided to go into the family car business, which was founded by their great-grandfather in 1928 and is now comprised of eleven franchises in Carlsbad, CA. Land Rover is Hoehn Motors’ newest dealership, and the sisters are excited to navigate Moroccan terrain in a Range Rover. The sisters are the perfect combination of strength, determination, intellectual ability, elegant in style with a major infusion of fun, charm & positive energy.
They are driving a Moroccan-tile wrapped Range Rover Sport with a 5.0-liter supercharged V8 engine. They are driving the actual car that set the record at the 2014 Pike’s Peak Hill Climb, finishing the 12.42-mile course in 12 minutes and 35.61 seconds.
Team 171 – US Nomads
Driver JoMarie Fecci has spent twenty five years roaming the world with a camera as a photojournalist and filmmaker, before returning to New York to become Creative Director at Havas PR (formerly Euro RSCG Worldwide), the North American earned-media and buzz boutique responsible for multiple award-winning campaigns.
As a photojournalist Fecci covered war and humanitarian crises worldwide. From 1998 through 2001, she focused on the Middle East where she was the first American journalist to spend significant time in Hezbollah-controlled southern Lebanon since the hostage-takings of the mid-1980s. She spent much of the 1990s covering the civil war in ex-Yugoslavia as well as conflicts in West Africa, Latin America and the Caucuses. Additionally she has produced and directed her own documentaries, mostly that focusing on refugee communities and personal stories of struggle in Europe and Africa.
In her free time, Fecci enjoys Jeeping and backcountry exploration. She is a private pilot, and is currently working on her instrument rating.
Navigator Isabelle Nikolic has been teaching in some of the most difficult Paris suburbs for 10 years. Previously, she spent 15 years as a charge d’assistance for French assurance firms, responding to emergencies, translating and organizing emergency medical care and repatriations for travelers in trouble.
In 2006, Nikolic and Fecci teamed up on a documentary film project, JUSTICE FOR DARFUR, shooting on location in Chad and Sudan. Nikolic has lived in New York, and in 2010 set out with Fecci on “The Great American Road Trip,” a six week journey of discovery, exploring the historical and social dimensions of the “road” that so many traveled in search of the “American Dream.”
Nikolic is an avid runner, and has participated in marathons and semi-marathons in the U.S. and France.
Team 182 – The X-Elles
Driver Rachelle Croft was born and raised just outside of Missoula, MT, and is 29 years old. She is the youngest of her family, having two older siblings. She grew up loving life and adventure, but all the while being a victim of sexual abuse from the ages of 6-14. It wasn’t until 3+ years ago that she started to find her voice, telling others, seeking healing from depression, and saying ‘yes’ to more than living in a shell.
She competed in the Gazelle Rally as a driver in 2012 where she discovered her new ‘love’. She has been learning and driving since the age of 5, and is just now putting it to use. After waiting a year, in order to help her husband with their reality show Expedition Overland, she is ready to be back in the driver’s seat for this special all women’s rally again. This year she will be racing specifically to raise awareness for sexual abuse. She is excited and ready to be a voice for women around the world that have not found theirs.
Navigator Rhonda Cahill is 34 years old and a mother of three children. She has been married for 12 years to the love of her life, Scott Cahill. They live in Bozeman, MT where they film an online adventure travel series called Expedition Overland with Rachelle and her husband. She is a firm believer in living your dreams IN FRONT of your children instead of waiting for an empty nest. Adventure never needs to stops due to children….they should be just as much a part of it!! She is passionate about the Rally this year as she and her teammate are racing to bring awareness to sexual abuse victims. They have partnered with Voice Today, an non-profit based out of Atlanta, GA that is working to bring education, healing and prevention to child sexual abuse. The biggest thing the Rally and sexual abuse have in common is the level of courage it takes to walk through these endeavors. She is excited to do this race and find out what she is truly capable of.
Team 183 – The Indiana Joans
Driver Emme Hall is a reviewer and presenter here at TFL Car. She is the principle driver and trophy winner for the Mega Monkey Motorsports™ 2 seat 1600 desert racer, powered by an air-cooled VW engine and has also been on the podium in a stock bug, a trophy bug, and an ultra-4. She auto-crosses her second generation Miata whenever she can.
She says of completing the 2013 Gazelle Rally, “Since coming back from the Rally I have definitely noticed a difference in my attitude while off road racing. I have been much more relaxed and confident. At one point this year I got a little stuck after getting caught in some dust and hitting a wall of tractor tires. When I couldn’t immediately back out and continue the race, panic set in for .001 seconds before my brain said, “You got a truck through the desert of Morocco. You can get out of this!”
Navigator Sabrina Howells is an actress and a singer/songwriter living in Venice Beach, California. Although last year’s Gazelle Rally was her first off roading experience, she is no stranger to adventure. She has a BS degree in Communications from Boston University, and performs around town with her band, Henry Henrietta. Sabrina has numerous national commercials to her credit, as well as television and theatrical performances. She was raised by an inspiring single mother, and breast cancer survivor, who taught her that there’s nothing a strong woman can’t achieve!
Sabrina says, “The biggest lesson learned from our experience at the 2013 Gazelle Rally is that there are only solutions. What may look impossible never is. What you think you can’t do, you can.”
The ladies will be doing technical verifications and traveling to Erfoud next week. Trucks go off the line on Thursday March 20 at 6am local time. You can track all the teams live, see pictures and videos, and even send them messages of encouragement at www.aichagazellerally.com. Emme will also be blogging back right here to TFL Car as she can.
Check out this classic video from the 2010 Easter Jeep Safari…
Emme is a driver, reviewer, and rabble rouser. She is the principle driver and trophy winner for the Mega Monkey Motorsports™ 2 seat 1600 desert racer, powered by an air-cooled VW engine and has also been on the podium in a stock bug, a trophy bug, and an ultra-4. She is one of only 13 American women to have participated in the Rallye Aicha des Gazelles, a 9 day all female off road rally in Morocco with no GPS. You can check her out online on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and either one of her blogs