LEG 5 – MARATHON
MECH IRDANE-OULAD DRISS
The Gazelles already have a prologue and 4 legs under their belts. Fatigue is starting to set in, but it is time for the first marathon leg: 275 kilometres on paper (in reality, more like 320 km) in complete autonomy, with no mechanical assistance in the evening, no refuelling, a makeshift camp and 12 CPs to reach over the course of two days.
The difficulties begin on the first day. The Gazelles will need to navigate with precision, avoid rushing ahead blindly and choose their route wisely. In fact, the start of the leg takes them back through “Gazelle Hell”. And don’t think that tackling the same area in the opposite direction will be any easier! Anyway, it is highly unlikely that they will have memorized the hills and valleys they encountered at the end of yesterday’s leg!
Things get easier after CP4. Plains stretch out as far as the eye can see and there are greater distances to cover between checkpoints. Let’s hope that the wind doesn’t rise, masking the features that serve to guide the Gazelles in a haze of dust…
The night will be spent in good company, calm under a starry sky as the Gazelles gather around improvised campfires.
Far from the brouhaha of the bivouac, a well-deserved deep night’s sleep awaits…
On Day 2 of the marathon, The Gazelles will have to face the sandy plains of Hassi Bou Haiara. Sand and more sand for all the competitors, not as majestic as Erg Chebbi, but not necessarily any less treacherous… The teams will need to choose their route carefully, and teamwork and confidence between navigator and driver will be put to the test. But what a landscape: hills of black and brown rock, with sand that appears at times yellow, at times pink… a wonderland of colour and solitude, where the closest road is more than 50 kilometres away!
Reaching the bivouac will be a blessing for many… but will probably continue late into the night. The vehicles will pay a visit to their respective mechanics workshops to get back in shape for tomorrow’s leg.
We are well into the competition now and the ranking should start to take shape by the end of this first marathon leg. But it would be premature to say that the outcome is already a sure thing, and wise to remember that a podium can be lost quickly… very quickly. And tomorrow is another marathon leg!
The last three teams to reach the bivouac are on the finish line: 144 (Laurene VOILLEQUIN / Laure AVELINE - Adhome Services), 143 (Leila MASSON / Monica OBERLE - Programme Alimentaire Mondial) and 166 (Stephanie PIERI-CHESNAIS / Isabelle AVIS - TRANSAVIA). They still need to hand in their road sheet and tracking devices... But a glass of Tsarine champagne is waiting for them!
The stretch from the dunes to the bivouac offers easy navigation and driving. There are even several trails leading to the bivouac.
That’s how Team 178 (Marie GUARINO / Giliane STORRER - MERSE-TRANSAC) described their feelings at the finish line, in front of the Ranking office. "We’re happy it’s over but it’s really strange to say that this is the last time we’ll be handing in our road sheet. We’re proud to have found every checkpoint of the Rallye. At first we didn’t think we could do it, but we got into it because we’re pretty competitive."
We're starting to have a good idea of who will be on the podium but aren't saying anything... we'll let you make your own predictions!
...and honking horns: it feels like the end of the Rallye! Many teams have crossed the finish line before a crowd of photographers and cameramen. Tears, laughter, emotions, arms waving triumphantly... they are all proud of what they have accomplished. Just making it to the finish line is a exploit in itself.