Rallye Aicha des Gazelles

Searching For Twelve Awesome Ladies

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Jessi Combs was featured in the 2014 Women of Off Road Racing calendar with her Ultra-4 car.

Jessi Combs was featured in the 2014 Women of Off Road Racing calendar with her Ultra-4 car.

 

July 11, 2014 Ladies who race, start prepping your professional photos for the 2015 Women of Off Road Racing Calendar! Emme Hall, driver of the Mega Monkey Motorsports 2/1600 is calling for submissions for the  third annual fundraising calendar.

Hall makes it clear; this is not your average pinup calendar.

“All my female friends that drive are incredible women, who can do so much more than just wear a bikini and pose. They drive, they wrench, the co-drive…they are badasses! I knew I could do something cool to feature them, their rides, and their partners without relying on their sexuality.”

The Women of Off Road Racing calendar features the ladies in hero card style poses with their cars.

“It’s a calendar that you can give to your young daughter as inspiration, or to your grandmother to hang in her living room,” says Hall.

Professional headshots are required to enter. Photos are due August 13th to emme@roadfly.com, with voting to begin Hall’s Facebook fan page on August 15th. The calendar will be ready in time for the MORE Ladies Race for the Cure on October 25th. Proceeds will go to the Cedars Sinai Breast Cancer Research Center and to help Hall’s team reach the Rallye Aicha des Gazelles in Morocco.

“The past two years I have accepted non-professional snapshots, but I really want to up the ante this year. Professional photos will place the ladies in their best light. I hope that in the future I can provide these headshots for free, but for now I recommend Dezert Wife Photography or Phil Kaos Photography. Both businesses have been very supportive of the calendar and they produce great photos.”

Hall is currently organizing a group photo session. Contact her at emme@roadfly.com for details or to submit. Women of all ages, shapes, and sizes are encouraged to submit. All classes of cars, UTVs, and motorcycles are eligible. All-female teams are welcome to submit as well. Women can be drivers of record, secondary drivers, or regular co-drivers.

About the Cedars Sinai Breast Center

At the Breast Center, patients receive comprehensive care from a team of experts. Our physicians are highly experienced at treating common as well as rare and complex cases of breast cancer. During weekly multidisciplinary Case Review meetings, patient cases are discussed from multiple perspectives so that patients are provided with a wide range of treatment options. This review facilitates ongoing communication among your physicians and specialists to track your progress and help lead to a successful recovery. Our specialists also work on clinical trials to develop new treatment options for addressing breast cancer and many of our patients take part in clinical trials that test new options for diagnosis and treatment. More information can be found at http://www.cedars-sinai.edu/Patients/Programs-and-Services/Breast-Center/

About the Rallye Aicha des Gazelles

Now in its 25th year, the Gazelle Rally is the toughest all female motorsports event on the planet. Women battle the grueling Moroccan desert for 9 days using only a compass and a map. No GPS, no cell phones, no chase crews. Points are awarded for shortest distance between checkpoints, not fastest time. Whether in a 4×4, a crossover, a quad, or a motorcycle, the two-woman teams must work together to drive the fewest kilometers possible, using their outdated maps to pick a route. More information can be found at www.gazellerally.com

About Emme Hall

Driver, review, rabble rouser, Emme is the principle driver for the trophy winning Mega Monkey Motorsports  2/1600. She has also been on the podium in class 11, 5u, and ultra-4. She is one of only 17 American women to participate in the Rally Aicha des Gazelles and was the driver for the top North American team in 2014. She is a video host for TFL Car, reviewing everything from compact economy sedans to trucks to muscle cars. She is the proud driver of a 2004 Mazdaspeed Miata and she autocrosses with the SCCA whenever she can. More information can be found at www.emmehall.com

 

 

 


We Are On Our Way!

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Well, Sabrina and I leave this weekend for 24th Edition of the Rallye Aicha des Gazelles, and we couldn’t have done it with out all the help of our friends, family, and partners!

Special shout out to Resqme, who came in at the last minute to help us with the truck rental. They make a fantastic handheld recovery device, with a seat belt cutter and a spring loaded hammer to shatter a window. We all hope we won’t ever need an emergency tool, but having one of these on your key chain is an easy insurance policy. www.resqme.com

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You can follow us in real time while we’re in Morocco! Starting next week, just go to www.aichagazellerally.com and you can find daily photos and videos, see how close we are to the checkpoint, and even send us messages! We are team 183.

Other US teams are 107 The Hoehn Sisters, 172 US Nomads, and 182 Team X-Elles.

We thank each and everyone of you who helped us get to the Gazelle Rally. We are entered in the Media Challenge, with the chance to win 15000 Euros for FORCE: Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered. We’ll be blogging back to www.tflcar.com as much as we can.

Again, thank you, everyone! We’ll do our best to make you proud!

press release sponsors copy

 

 


Rap Star Gazelles

It wasn’t all technical driving while on the Gazelle Rally.  There were times where we were driving on roads.  Of course, we couldn’t go faster than 50 km/hr, so we had a lot of time to kill.  Sabrina is a professional singer and I have dabbled in musical theatre, so we often sang.  We sometimes rapped.

Badly.

 

 


Rallye Aicha des No Sleep

“Bonjour Gazelles!  C’est quatre heure!”

Every day through eight days of competition a melodic French female voice called out to us and every day I wanted to yell back, “SHUT THE FUCK  UP IT’S 4AM ARE YOU CRAZY?!?!”

One of the most difficult aspects of the Gazelle Rally is the lack of sleep.  You’re up at 4am, you leave at 6am and you put in anywhere from 10 hours (if you’re a really really good team) to 16 hours (if you’re a new team like we were) in the truck.  During that time you never know what will happen.  You may dig yourself out, you may help other teams dig out.  You’ll probably be running up and down terrain, scouting it out and you might change a tire.  Or two.  .  You’re plotting points and plotting your strategy.  Mentally and physically you are spent at the end of the day.

Yes, they are heavy.

Back at the bivouac you still have to set up camp, fuel the truck, talk to the mechanics, and eat.  You may or may not have a chance to take a shower.  Mostly I did not.

Getting to bed by 10pm was a luxury.  We were usually collapsing into our tents around midnight.  Even though it was bulky and took up space in the truck, I was so happy to have my Kelty cot.  I was getting some quality 4 hours of sleep.  My fellow Gazelles with their aired up sleeping pads often did not fare so well.

This video was taken the day after the infamous Crater Road, where we traversed a giant crater in the dead of night, only to descend down Sketch Boulevard into the maze of a palm tree farm.  I still don’t know how we made it out.

 


Lesson Number 1 From the Gazelle Rally

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve been back from Morocco, and I’m still trying to process everything.  Most of me is really proud that we did it and finished and kept our ranking through the whole thing.  We finished in the top half of the First Participants Challenge and in the top ten of the Isuzu Media Challenge.  All in all we had an awesome time.

And yet….

There is a part of me that won’t shut up about the mistakes I made.   One of my goals was to take care of the truck and if you followed us at all you know that on Day 2 it all went to a bit of hell.  I came up out of a wash, hit a deep trough of some sort, and put a nice dent in the frame of our truck.  As a result we had to sign a waiver that said we understood the risks of continuing with a bent frame and that we wouldn’t drive faster than 50 km/hr.  They put an alert on our Iritrak system so that if we did it would sound an alarm back at the bivouac.

50km/hr is 30mph by the way.

I’m not sure how much this contributed to our finishing position, but I can’t help but thinking that if we could have gone faster between checkpoints we would have, well, made it to more checkpoints.

But shoulda coulda woulda, right?  The lesson to come out of this (besides the given Don’t Break the Truck) is Patience.  We were stuck with what we had.  We couldn’t go any faster, and I just had to deal with it.  This is how I did it:


Follow My Team at the Rallye Aicha des Gazelles

It’s less than TWO WEEKS until we leave for the Rallye!!!  We know a lot of you want to follow us on this crazy adventure.  We are proud to announce that we have partnered with Jalopnik as part of the Isuzu  Media Challenge.  The Media Challenge is a mini-challenge within the Rallye.  Participants must drive an Isuzu vehicle and partner with a major news outlet who will post daily updates.  The winner of this challenge gets 15000 euros for their charity of choice.

That’s right.  We don’t have to win the whole Rallye (although we wouldn’t mind doing that too), we just have to beat the other teams in the Media Challenge to win some serious coin for our charity.  We have chosen FORCE: Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered.  We wanted to work with them at this point as they specifically benefit women who have a hereditary risk of breast cancer, like Navigator #1 Michele Martineau.

Of course, we wouldn’t be us if we didn’t try for even MOAR press coverage.  During the Rallye, March 19-28, you can follow us at

www.jalopnik.com
www.dirtnewz.com
www.herhighway.com
www.roadfly.com
www.femaleracingnews.com

We hope you will take the time to write to us.  After March 16th just go to the Gazelle website and click on Rally Live.  There you can find a link to all the teams.  Click on us,  team 178.  Go to Write to the Gazelles and follow the instructions.  The Rallye will print out our messages for us at the bivouac each night.  We imagine this is a lot like mail call in the Army and any messages we get from our supporters will mean a lot to us.  We will try to write back but we have heard that there are only 3 computers for 300 women.  Those are not good odds.

And of course, you can track us.  Even though we won’t have GPS, we will be tracked via satellite so you can monitor our progress.  Just go to www.gazellerally.com.  We are team 178, but there are 4 other American teams to cheer for:

Team 107 Lerner/Reina; Third Time Participants
Team 136 Hamilton/Beavis; First Time Participants
Team 182 Klishevich/Chiadmi; First Time Participants
Team 185 Meddows/Barone; Second and First Time Participants

We wouldn’t be going to Morocco without the help we have received from our friends, family, and supporters.  We realize these are difficult financial times for everyone, and we thank you SO VERY MUCH for helping us get to Morocco for this crazy, life changing adventure!

 


Morocco…Here We Come!!!

Well, we have paid our rally fees and we are definitely on our way to the Rallye Aicha des Gazelles!!!  Our final fundraising push is a silent auction, open until February 4th at 11pm EST.  Lots of cool stuff is up for bid including some gift cards from SDHQ Off Road, Off Road Vixens, RSK Clothing, and Mary Kay.  Plus a discounted pro entry to a MORE race, a photo package from Dezert Wife Photography, a co-driver seat in a few races with Dezert Outlaw Motorsports, and more!!  Check it out at www.32auctions.com/tcg

We are now deep in the depths of finding a rental truck…in French.   Here’s how you communicate via email to French rental companies:

1.  Frantically search the internet for “French truck rental”

2.  Realize that there are contacts listed in your Gazelle packet

3.  Feel dorky

4.  Attempt to write an email in French

5.  Proof read it with your terrible French but think, “This sounds good,” and hit send

6.  Remember something called Google Translate and run your already sent French email through

7.  Laugh at the pathetic translation and rewrite email

8.  Resend email with addendum: “Ecrit avec l’aide de Google Translate”

9.  Receive email from said French company

10. Reverse Google Translate process

 

The map has gone up, giving us plenty of time to check out the terrain via Google Earth.  It seems I owe a lot to Google Inc, lately!  At any rate, here’s a glimpse.

So we now have lots of things to take care of:  getting the necessary supplies, a new pair of boots (yes!), tools, a tent…everything we’ll need for 9 days in Morocco.  One thing we will NOT need is a navigation unit.  Remember, Gazelles navigate with a compass and an old map and nothing more.  It’s what makes the Gazelle Rally FULL OF AWESOME!!!

 

 

 

 


We Take Second at Toys For Tots

What a great way to end the season!  I got to go out to Los Angeles for 5 fun filled days of cars, complete with the LA Auto Show and a spin in the new VW Beetle Convertible.  Then I capped it off with the MORE race, where each participant brought some toys to donate to Toys For Tots.

We saw some great cars at the LA Auto Show.  My faves were the new Abarth cabrio, although to be honest I’m not sure how much of a true convertible it really is.  I adore that car and really wish it were offered in AWD and a true drop top, but if you’re down with FWD and want some fun, definitely check it out.

Interior of the 2013 Abarth Cabrio

I also got to say hi to the head of SRT, Ralph Gilles.  We talked Challenger and Viper and all things SRT.  I really like how they have brought back some great designs, but never lost the original feel.  Design evolution as opposed to revolution if you will.

I can't decide who is the best looking: Ralph, me, or the Viper.

And though I will probably never ever buy one, I was pleased to see the redesigned Honda Civic.  Everyone pretty much trashed the 2012 Civic as being, well…boring.  Honda responded quickly with a 2013 refresh that I think is quite successful, at least from the rear.

It looks good, no?

Friday I found myself driving the new Beetle Convertible. They had many different engines/transmissions to try and I got behind the wheel of the TDI manual and the turbo manual.  Both are fantastic, with the TDI offering excellent mpg and torque.

Those headlights...so Boxster-y

Along the way they had some vintage VWs for us to drive.  Honestly I was more excited about this 1979 bug than anything!  Funny but it drove just like a class 11!!

Air Cooled Love

A highlight for me was watching some journalists try to get the Beetle out of the soft sand.  They were so cute!  I was tempted to tell them to lower their tire pressure, but decided it was more fun to just sit back and watch.

ROTFLMFAO!!!

That night I hightailed it out of Los Angeles and made my way up to Barstow for the MORE Toys For Tots race.  It honestly felt a little odd; like I was just kind of dropped at the race with little prep time, which I guess is not far from the truth.  Mark and Dad had been out with the Mr. Myagi of Shocks the week before and had the car dialed in as much as they could.  The engine had been gone through down in Mexico and everything was good to go.  They had even bought gas.  It just feels odd not participating in any of the pre-race stuff.  I never pack up the truck or do any of the leg work…I really want to get back to CA.  Being this far away from everyone is killing me.  I’m just so lucky that I have good people helping me.  Very very lucky.

At tech, making sure I have all my safety equipment and that it's up to date.

At any rate, we ran a pretty smooth race.  I dropped to fourth after the first lap (hey, I didn’t pre-run…gotta take that first lap slowly) but came back to second by the end of the second lap and held it the rest of the race, thanks to co-driver Pepper keeping me at a good pace and boosting my confidence with phrases like, “That was so much better than on the last lap!!!” The format of the race was pretty cool.  We ran 6 laps of 19 miles, then 6 laps of 13 miles.  Sometime on lap two I separated the tire from the rim a bit and had a flat.  Best flat to have if you ask me, as the guys just popped it back on the wheel and it holds air just fine.  We stopped again at the end of lap 3 for one minute as the guys had missed a lug nut during the tire change.

Talent running out in 3...2....1 (don't worry. we saved it)

When I gave the car over to Mark, we were 6 minutes behind the leader and 4 minutes in front of third.  Martee hopped in as co-driver but we had a bit of a fuel spill while she was getting buckled in.  I’d like to say that making sure this won’t happen again is Priority Number One for next season.  A fuel spill is absolutely not to be tolerated.  It’s unsafe and we won’t have that.

Mark and Martee took off and put down two great laps, but the spill took it’s toll on Martee.  She was smart enough to take herself out of the car so she could get out of her suit and clean up a bit.  I was  the only one still suited up, so guess who went into the car for another 50 miles?  Yours truly. I was happy to do so, honestly, as I got to ride with Mark who has more 1600 seat time than I do.  He kept a steady pace and took us the last 4 laps and on to the podium.

Congratulating the winning team by giving them a tiny little bit of shit. Kidding! First in class Chris Fogle in #1620 could not have been nicer.

The guy who won said his team were sweating us a bit.  They found our radio channel and modified their pit schedule when they heard our chatter.  It’s nice to know I made someone worry a bit.

The whole in-car team made the local paper

So now it’s all about Morocco and raising the money to get to the Rallye Aicha des Gazelles.  It’s nine days, off road in Morocco with no GPS.  Points are awarded for shortest distance, not fastest time, making this a rally that is won by navigation and decision making rather than speed.  We need about $18,000 just to register.  You can donate via the link at the top of the sidebar.  Anything raised above and beyond our entry and rental fees will be donated to the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

And of course, don’t forget about our awesome Women of Off Road Racing 2013 calendar.  We are on our second printing so be sure to get yours NOW.  www.teamcouragegazelles.com/calendar

 


Toys For Tots

Pepper and I at tech for the Powder Puff

Looks like we’ll be out at the last MORE race of the season, the Holiday 200 on December 1.  The race will be a toy drive for Toys for Tots.  Gotta bring an unwrapped race car for a lucky kiddo!  From my understanding the race is 2 short courses of about 20 miles.  They split up the fast cars and the slow cars and you get a few hours on one course and then you switch.  I don’t know if they’ll put 1600 in the fast group or slow group.  We’re kind of slow fast cars.  At any rate, I’m so excited that Pepper Junus has agreed to co-dawg for me. She and I took 1st in class at the Powder Puff in October and we are hoping for a repeat.  Mark Burke will take over for the second course, with a super secret co-dawg. Let’s just say we are working on having the lightest passenger weight possible with his co-driver. I’ve heard Jason Coleman’s co-driver is a midget, and I aim to beat him.

And my week leading up to the race promises to be full of awesome.  I’ll be hanging out at the LA Auto Show for Roadfly.  Word on the street is Porsche will be debuting a new sports car, and since I just got out of a 911 I’m excited to see what it’s all about.  I’ll also get the chance to drive the new Beetle convertible.  But on Friday evening I have to high tail it out of LA to Barstow in time for tech.  If anyone can give me a ride let me know.

This has nothing to do with anything in this post, but I like the pic.

Remember you can still purchase our calendar, featuring some rockin’ female off road drivers.  All proceeds will go to getting us to Morocco for the Rallye Aicha des Gazelles AND help fund mammograms.  How rad is that?

 

 

 


Postponing Sucks

Michele and I in front of her truck at Powder Puff.

I went to Colorado to see family for the holidays and had plans to drive up to Glenwood Springs to see Michele.  Well, 18 inches of snow put the kibosh on that and by the time the roads were good I had family obligations I had to attend to.  Ah, crap!  Michele and I did get a chance to talk on the phone a few times, and the short story is that due to complications with Michele’s breast reconstruction, we have to postpone our bid for the Rallye Aicha des Gazelles in Morocco until 2013.  I don’t want to go into it here because we are both bummed, but know that we will take this year to get tight with manufacturers, expand our social media network, and continue fundraising for breast cancer research.  You can read Michele’s post about it at www.teamcouragegazelles.com  and as always you can follow us on Twitter @couragegazelles and friend us at www.facebook.com/teamcouragegazelles.

 


PRI and Fun in Florida

Well, in what some may call “crazy” and I refer to as “quirky and charming”, I got back last night at 2:30am after solo driving nearly 1000 miles at one stretch from outside Tampa, FL to DC.  I realized that was my second longest marathon solo car drive, the longest being from Santa Cruz, CA to Glenwood Springs, CO this past summer.  Although I did nap a bit on that 1100 mile drive, so maybe it doesn’t count.  Nah….it counts!

So why was I in Florida?  Not only did I need a road trip, but I wanted to attend the Performance Racing Industry tradeshow in Orlando.  I was able to meet the ladies from Female Racing News,  for whom I have been blogging about the Rallye Aicha des Gazelles.  I also got to meet some of my Twitter pals.  If you’re interested in some great racers who just happen to be female, check out @Shea Racing  @AshleyFreiberg  @Shannon_Mac and @ColleteDavis.
I also shopped around our Team Courage Gazelles sponsorship package and spoke with some suit manufacturers about some design ideas I have for fireproof suits designed specifically for women and off roading.  Not only do our suits need to actually FIT us, but there are specific needs that women have while out in the middle of the desert that men just don’t have to deal with.  I also got re-acquainted with someone I thought I had totally blown it with, so all in all I’d say it was a very successful weekend.
And if you’re a fan of my reviews where I embarrass myself with dorky accents, check out my review of the 2011 Jaguar XK Convertible.  It was so much fun to drive around for a week…although I’m pretty sure it was the only Jaguar parked outside for that week in all of America.

24 Hours in a 1969 VW and 9 Days in Morocco

Lots of cool stuff happening, y’all, so grab a beverage and sit back for a nice long read.  First of all, this weekend I’ll be racing with Desert Dingo in their Class 11 bug.  When I say Class 11, I mean nearly stock VW bug.  Sure, we’ve got a roll cage and some bigger suspension parts, but you can still only run one shock at each corner, and under the deck lid all you’ll find is a stock 1600cc engine with a 4 speed transmission.  As I write this, 1107 is on her way to the Super Secret Hiding Place somewhere in Nevada, while Our Dear Leader, Jim, is at Burning Man.

The race this weekend will consist of 12 hours of racing on Saturday around a 41 mile lap course in a clockwise direction.  Then we’ll get 12 hours to wrench on the car.  Sunday finds us racing for another 12 hours same course but counter clockwise.  The race director of VORRA has this to say about the course:

We went out and placed course markers yesterday. There are some pretty deep washes across the road starting a 1/2 mile before Checkpoint 2 to about Mile Marker 38. And yes on Day 2 the 11′s are going to need jet packs.

Um…wait.  He’s talking about us.  We need jet packs?  Dingo leader Jim apparently thinks “jet packs” is code for “tow rope”, as he sent the team these encouraging words:

“We have a tow rope pre-tied to the front bumper so to get a tow, all you have to do is pop the hood, unspool the rope and hold up the end and hope for someone to pull over. I’ve gone on the VORRA discussion forum and asked the other teams to consider helping out us 11s if they can spare a couple of minutes.”

I’ll be tweeting as much as I can this weekend using #the24.  If you’re not already following me on the Twitter, I’m @MMMotorsports.

And check out what’s going on with my third race team, Team Courage Gazelles.  We are on the home page of Dirt Newz!

My partner, Michele Martineau, and I are campaigning to run the 9 day Rallye Aicha des Gazelles in Morocco, 2012.  Its the world’s only all female off road rally, and only 5 other American women have ever competed.  But there’s a catch:  we navigate using a compass and an outdated map.  No GPS.  No cell phones.  No whining. There is a lot of excitement surrounding Team Courage Gazelles, and I can’t wait to tell y’all about it.  But I need some time to do it and right now my Hall Ass is late for work.