The 25th all female Rallye Aicha des Gazelles will take place March 20-April 4 and America will be sending 10 teams. European competitors will start with technical verifications March 20 in Paris, with American teams joining them in Rabat, Morocco on March 24. From there teams will travel over the Atlas Mountains to Erfoud to start the 9-day competition.
Participants in the Gazelle Rally are not allowed chase crews, cell phones, or GPS. Points are awarded for shortest distance between checkpoints, not fastest time. Teams can choose their route with the help of an old map, a plotter, and a compass. There is no roadbook. Teams are given map coordinates and must plot them on their maps, find their heading, then drive in as straight a line as possible. If a team comes upon an obstacle, be it a wash or a mountain, they must navigate around it and then return to their original heading.
With the exception of the marathon legs, teams return each night to a mobile bivouac, where they eat, sleep, gas up, and receive mechanical assistance.
Coming out of San Diego, the 2015 Gazelle Rally marks the second participation for the Hoehn sisters, and they’re coming back with a vengeance. In 2014 the team was beset with obstacles, including illness, dehydration, and an accident that took them out of the rally. As the team crested a dune, they found they had too much speed and their Range Rover Sport took a nose dive, taking out their car compass, their windshield, and their radiator. The team spent a few nights in the desert with their car waiting for recovery.
They were able to get their Rover fixed well enough to participate in the ceremonial finish in Essouira, but it was a bittersweet time for the sisters.
However, the rally recognized their stunning vehicle, decorated with a wrap evoking the traditional Moroccan tiles found throughout the country. The sisters took second in the Hexis Beauty Car challenge, and have part of their rally fees taken care of for 2015 as a prize.
Jo Hannah and Susanah can’t wait to return to Morocco after this personally and professionally transformative experience during the 2014 Rally. The sisters both work for the family car business, which was founded by their great-grandfather in 1928 and is now comprised of eleven franchises in Carlsbad, CA. They will once again compete in a Land Rover, this time one of their dealership’s own LR4s. Only thirteen months apart in age, both sisters are avid travelers, free divers, and art collectors.
The LR4 has a 3.0L supercharged V6 under the hood, good for 340 hp and 332 lb/ft of torque. They are at a bit of a disadvantage with such a heavy, gas guzzling vehicle. With an EPA fuel rating of 14/19/16 and a 22.8 gallon tank, they will have to plan their strategy carefully, especially during the 2-day marathon legs, where re-fueling is not an option. With a range of just a smidge over 300 miles, the team has little room for error.
Before their accident took them out of the rally in 2014, Team Hoehn had made all their checkpoints and had even achieved the most difficult checkpoints in the dunes of Merzouga. With the hard lessons learned last year, look for them to do extremely well in this year’s campaign.
We’ll be posting daily updates on TFL Car, but you can follow all the American teams and even send them messages of encouragement at www.gazellerally.com.
TFL Car had the 2015 LR4 and compared it’s approach angle with that of the GMC Yukon.