- Mercedes-Benz Vans is the defending champion in the crossover category
- Some 2,500 km of challenging off-road navigation through the Moroccan desert
- The silver-anniversary edition of the rally for women will begin on March 24
- Four German and four American drivers will compete for Mercedes-Benz in two new Vito 119 CDI 4×4 models and two Sprinter 316 CDI 4×4 vans
- More than 300 participants from 17 countries
Stuttgart/Essaouira – The teams from Mercedes-Benz will begin the 25th Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles in the Moroccan desert as the defending champions in the crossover category of the all-women race: The Mercedes-Benz Vans team consisting of Astrid Ebermann and Sabrina Trillmann took first place last year in their Sprinter 316 CDI 4×4. This year marks the first time Mercedes-Benz will be represented in the race by four teams, which will be driving the new Vito 119 CDI 4×4 and the Sprinter 316 CDI 4×4.
The Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles motor sports event has been taking place every year since 1990. This year, more than 180 teams from 17 countries will participate in the rally, whose patron is King Mohammed VI of Morocco. The offroad race isn’t about speed; its all about navigation skills and a well honed sense of direction: Only maps and compasses can be used, and GPS is strictly prohibited. The winner is not the fastest team but the one that has traveled the least number of kilometers through all checkpoints.
Six rally stages in the Moroccan desert with series-production models of the new Vito and the Sprinter
The women who participate in the Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles have to drive over a distance of roughly 2,500 km, most of it on rough terrain. The teams from Mercedes-Benz will therefore use four all-wheel drive vans in the rally, whereby two teams will drive new Vito 119 CDI 4×4 models and the other two will pilot Sprinter 316 CDI 4×4 vans. All the vehicles are production models that have only been slightly altered. More specifically, they have been equipped with special wheels and sand tires, a rollover cage, underride protection, and bucket seats.
This year’s Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles will begin on March 24 in Tangier and end on April 4 on the beach in the city of Essaouira, which will also be the site of the gala awards ceremony.
German teams to drive the new Vito 119 CDI 4×4 in the challenging desert race
The “Daimler team” consists of the experienced Aïcha des Gazelles drivers Andrea Spielvogel and Julia Salamon, who will be piloting a new Vito 119 CDI 4×4 van. This year marks the third time the two Daimler employees are participating in the rally.
The second new Vito 119 CDI 4×4 will be driven by Viola Hermann and Vanessa Wagner — the “skilled trades team.“ Hermann, a goldsmith, and Wagner, a plumbing and heating systems expert, are racing on behalf of Mercedes-Benz and two skilled-trades magazines.
Experienced U.S. drivers opt for the Sprinter 316 CDI 4×4
Mercedes-Benz Vans USA selected its own two teams for the rally. The first team, which will be driving a Sprinter 316 CDI 4×4 model, consists of Shennen Marschner from California and Susan Mead from Massachusetts. Marschner is a regional manager at Mercedes-Benz USA; Mead is a journalist.
Chrissie Beavis from California and Alyssa Roenigk from Florida will also drive a Sprinter 316 CDI 4×4 in the second team entered by Mercedes-Benz Vans USA. Beavis is a freelance architect, while Roenigk is a journalist at the ESPN sports network in the U.S.
Rally with a humanitarian purpose
The Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles offers no prize money; instead all proceeds from the competition (sponsorships and participation fees) are donated to projects that help the people of Morocco. That’s why a “medical convoy” travels through the country during the race, stopping along the way to provide medical assistance to people living in remote areas. Last year, participating physicians conducted more than 4,800 consultations during the race and also performed 65 operations onsite.