Aïcha des Gazelles 2016 – the only off-road rally exclusively for women

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Beautiful. Brave. Powerful. We are not only talking about vehicles here, but about the women driving them. The girls are out for a drive in… Morocco. The Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles 2016 has started and they were not to miss it.

Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles 2016 is the world’s only off-road event exclusively for women. 160 teams are spending 10 days in the Sahara desert. Four of them are sent by the Mercedes-Benz Vans division, on board of a Sprinter 4×4 and a Vito 4×4.

And these are the eight gazelles driving the Benz vans through the Moroccan desert.

  • Bianca Manz and Alexandra Jansen. Engineers at Daimler AG. First time in the starting line-up, onboard a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 316 BlueTEC 4×4 rated at 120 kW (163 HP) output.
  • Viola Hermann and Vanessa Wagner. Goldsmith and master plumber/ heating installer. The second time they’ve competed – onboard a Mercedes-Benz Vito 119 BlueTEC 4×4 rated at 140 kW (190 HP) output.
  • Madeleine Oster and Catrin Peest. Master carpenter/roofer and master joiner. Their first time in the starting line-up – Sprinter 316 BlueTEC 4×4
  • Eva Holzhäuser and Nicole Marquardt. Doctor and sales expert. Their first time in the starting line-up – Vito 119 BlueTEC 4×4.

It’s not a joy ride in Morocco and they did not get there only because they are pretty. They qualified after a rough selection process, in which physical fitness, knowledge of French, driving skills and technical knowledge were decisive factors.

Aïcha des Gazelles 2016

They will need all they’ve got to be able to cross the desert: 2500 kilometers of scree fields, dried-out river bands and sand dunes of the Sahara. Drivetrain, engine and vehicle electronics are near to production standard with just some slight modifications. These include: roll cages, underbody protection, bucket seats and special tyres.

The startoff off the 6-stage rally happened in Erfoud, in the east of Morocco. The teams head west to the Atlantic coast. The route will shall take them to their destination, in Essaouuira. The teams are only allowed to use a map and compass for navigation.