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Gazelles “pleased with themselves” after Leg 1

Leg 1

At the start line of Leg 1, the Gazelles all had the same objective: to get back to the bivouac with all their checkpoints. “We’re going to stay calm and keep smiling today”, explained Jeannette of Team 200 (Jeanette JAMES / Murielle TARRAZI - Bumper Off Road). “We’re also going to be there to help the other Gazelles”, added her teammate Murielle. Once across the start line, the Gazelles headed due east towards the rising sun. Before long they reached a tricky area of small dunes with scattered clumps of camel grass. Several teams got stuck and were helped out by other Gazelles. “We won’t leave Gazelles to fend for themselves”, exclaimed Florence of Team 234 (Laetitia CARRIE / Florence BUFFET - Intermarché Saint Laurent de la Salanque) as she towed the Gazelles of Team 168 (Céline MASSON / Johanna GACON VITTORIANO - OVELIA).

Getting stuck first thing in the morning

Several teams got out shovels and tow straps to help others out of the sand. Alia and Léa, Team 191 (Léa BAUDIER / Alia BOUCHAMA - BMCE BANK), got out their inflatable jack to lift their car enough to slide the traction aids under the wheels. But the Gazelles were not discouraged and kept smiling. “It’s waking us up”, joked 218 (Véronique SGARRA BERIOT / Laëtitia BERTIN - KING JOUET). Some navigators walked ahead of the vehicle to help their driver avoid obstacles. And it paid off: “We’re really happy, we didn’t get stuck once!” 208 (Karen HOEHN / Dana SAXTEN - Hoehn Adventures) congratulated themselves. They headed for th first checkpoint, at the edge of the oasis.

Both happy and serious

Amélie and Séverine of Team 182 (Séverine HYPOLITE / Amélie CRES BERTHOME - OCEAN) gave each other a high five on reaching the checkpoint, only to discover that it was not the right one. They take the time to readjust their heading in relation to the other points. It seemed perfect, it was exactly the right distance”, they mused. “Off to a good start! For now, we’re using headings more than features, since we’re still having some trouble reading the map”, explained Claire of Team 201 (Claire TRIGNAT / Julia BARTHELEMY - Photoweb). Wide smiles notwithstanding, the teams were serious. Team 147 (Corinne TISSERAND / Jamila FRUCHART - KOWA Company & WES Worldwide Exclusive Services) got out their calculator to plot their points and “double check the distances.”

Guardian angel Gazelles

On the way to CP2, Team 192 (Margaux MOUY / Lucille ANTOINE - Easy VO) backed into a hole and needed help from two other teams, Sophie and Susan of Team 106 (Sophie FIS / Susan OSMOTHERLY - Dingo Australia) and Céline and Cécile of Team 212 (Céline IMBERT / Cécile PAGES - AXA ASSURANCES AGENCE IMBERT PAGES) to get out. It was an emotional moment for Margaux, who thanked the Gazelles warmly after getting out. “They’re guardian angels”, confirmed her teammate Lucille. Things got more tricky towards CP3, and several teams made mistakes. “The checkpoints are too close together, it’s easy to be misled”, laughed Vanessa of Team 144 (Vanessa PARIS / Julie HU SEIK - Mca technology). Caroline and Emilie, Team 213 (Emilie ESCANDE / Caroline ESCANDE - Green Cantine - Jack's burger), made the same mistake. “It was a little too easy!”, admitted the Gazelles. “We knew it wasn’t our checkpoint, but it gives us a sure reference point”, remarked Elvire of Team 162 (Tania MOUMILOFF / Elvire BONDON-BOINET - HEC).

The desert “as beautiful as ever”

A number of teams chose to stop for lunch at CP3. They relaxed in the shade of the trees (or their vehicle) before resuming their route in the hopes of reaching CP7, the final CP of the leg, before 8 p.m. The Gazelles were enthralled by the desert landscapes. “I did the rally last year but I’m finding it just as beautiful this year!” exclaimed Elodie of Team 31 (Elodie BAUDIN / Caroline PERENGO - Balloon)

Emotion at the finish line

“Some CPs are like that, you’re really happy to find them”, exclaimed the Gazelles of Team 28 (Karine LANCHAS-VICENTE / Christine FOUGERON - MARCHE FRAIS et AVR ENVIRONNEMENT) on reaching CP5. While Valérie and Frédérique of Team 132 (Céline MERIOT / Marie-Eve BAUDA - 4murs) were also “pleased with themselves” and “having such a good time”, Catherine of Team 30 (Prune SALTI / Saadia CHAMALI - GCF FOURCHARD & RENARD EIFFAGE) arrived at CP5 exclaiming: “Ah les vaches!” in reaction to the difficulty they had in finding it. And the day is not over! The famous camel grass from the start of the leg is back: the return to the bivouac won’t be that easy! The Gazelles are satisfied but emotional at the finish line of this first leg. “It’s the feeling of being finished after such a full day, but we’re pleased with ourselves and happy to be back at the bivouac for the night”, remarked Valérie of Team 156 (Marlène VILOTTE / Valérie DUBOURDY - LITTLE BRIDGE).




Dominique Serra has dedicated this 29th edition to Nasrin Sotoudeh – prominent Iranian lawyer and human rights advocate – who has been sentenced to 38 years in prison and 148 lashes for “inciting corruption and prostitution” by defending women who took off their headscarves in public.

I encourage everyone to sign the petition for her release.