Team American Chaos Kickstarts First Competition Together

by chaosfab on March 23, 2016

March 23rd, 2016 (CORONA, CA) – With the Erg Chebbi dunes in the background and a sandstorm looming overhead, the 26th edition of the Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles began today with the Prologue near the gateway to the Sahara – Erfoud, Morocco.

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Morocco has ideal yet challenging driving terrain

The Prologue is a short warm-up loop for teams to practice driving and navigation skills.  The day did not count toward the overall score for teams in the 4×4 class, but established the start order for the first day of competition.  And for Team #180 American Chaos, Nicole Pitell-Vaughan and Chrissie Beavis, the Prologue meant more than just testing out the truck.

“The fact that we made it to the Prologue despite vehicle transportation hurdles said a lot about our entire team.  It wasn’t easy the last few weeks, but things finally clicked.  We used today to shake off the cobwebs and get a decent start draw,” stated Pitell-Vaughan.

Beavis and Pitell-Vaughan ready for the storm

Beavis and Pitell-Vaughan ready for the storm

Today’s Prologue was straightforward with four checkpoints (CPs) in an ideal distance of 45 km with flat, easy terrain. Pitell-Vaughan and Beavis reached every CP, and headed back to the bivouac with ease.

“The Prologue sets the stage and we nailed our checkpoints today. Despite the logistics issues with the CRC/TOTAL CHAOS Toyota Tacoma, its all behind us and now its rally time,” said Pitell-Vaughan.  We had a great day! The next eight are really going to challenge us.

For many competitors including the experienced, the day represented their first time together as a team, established team dynamics, and ironed out communication.  For teams who performed well, being in the better placed group on Leg 1 will have its advantages but can’t predict an outcome.

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The CRC/TOTAL CHAOS Toyota Tacoma

“Until after the first day, you really can’t tell how serious the competition is,” said Beavis.  “Even the Prologue doesn’t really let you know who you will be running with, and a team’s ranking in past events doesn’t mean anything a year later with different equipment.”

As three-time Gazelle competitor Beavis alluded to, anything can happen in the rally.  The competition can change even on the last day of competition and reconfigure top rankings thanks in part to its unique format.

Team #180 at Checkpoint 2

Team #180 at Checkpoint 2

Rally Format

Many rallies are based near the foot of the Merzouga and Erg Chebbi dunes, but the Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles stands out in its format – teams of two drive off-road and navigate to set CPs over nine days using a compass, outdated maps, and ruler.  No GPS, no cell phones, and no support crews. The goal is not speed rather the shortest distance between CPs.

As teams dig deeper into the competition the next few days, some may become more comfortable and less focused as exhaustion sets in.  Scores can be set based on something as simple as how a team decides to drive around a rock or a set of trees.  This year’s competition should be no exception, with even the slightest variations and last-minute decisions affecting a score.

Follow Team #180 American Chaos

Live tracking of teams will begin on the official first day of competition, March 24th, at 6 a.m. local time (11 p.m PST) on the rally website.
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