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.
“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.
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.
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.
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:
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
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!
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!!!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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?
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.
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!
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!