Competition Heats Up as Team American Chaos Holds on to Narrow Lead

by chaosfab on March 28, 2016

March 27th, 2016 (CORONA, CA) – The  Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles has officially hit the midway mark with four competition days down and four to go.  With that comes some serious heat in the top ten of the 4×4 class, as pressure mounts for leaders in the rankings and contenders for the top. For Team #180 American Chaos Nicole Pitell-Vaughan and Chrissie Beavis, they began the first of two Marathon Legs on Saturday ahead of the pack in overall score but with little room for error – second place Team #179 Régine Zbinden and Ela Steiner trailed them in an exceptionally close .77 points away.

Pitell-Vaughan, the CRC/TOTAL CHAOS Toyota Tacoma, and Erg Chebbi

Pitell-Vaughan, the CRC/TOTAL CHAOS Toyota Tacoma, and Erg Chebbi

They Don’t Call It a Marathon Leg for Nothing

The ideal distance for the two-day Leg 3 was 230 km with 14 CPs total and 5 of them in the dunes.  For those in the 4×4 class, day one “Dunes Day” brought route options through the famed Erg Chebbi dunes – teams chose from three routes based on their experience and expertise.  Route X was the most advanced, surrounded by steep peeks and tricky decision making. Maintaining smart decisions in both navigating and driving here were a must. Pitell-Vaughan and Beavischose X, an obvious choice for teams looking to hold court.  Although the team had kept strong momentum so far, it was definitely reachable.

Home sweet home

Home sweet home

Going into the dunes, Beavis was optimistic.  “The Morocco Taco absolutely has enough power to climb the steep slopes of Erg Chebbi, and the peaks make it easy to navigate.”

The truck’s custom suspension, Toyota TRD Supercharger and traction with the BFGoodrich tires gave Pitell-Vaughan confidence going in. Still, competitors try and abide by at least one rule – don’t break your car. It is your third Gazelle.

“Keeping a vehicle together for nine days out here is no easy task,” said Pitell-Vaughan. “The rocks rattle the truck apart – we had rear diff bolts rattle loose last year!, The sand dunes are technical and driving straight is more challenging than you can imagine both mentally and physically.”

Navigator Chrissie Beavis

Navigator Chrissie Beavis

Team #180’s lines through the X route were seemingly well-placed in all five CPs as they set a solid pace through the dunes. From there, they continued on to nail all CPs on day one.  Day two’s brought tackling the wide Oued Rhéris, rough terrain and difficult features to identify, which brought the team back to the bivouac after dark Sunday evening.

The rally is now beginning to weed out competitors, filtering teams through fatigue, dehydration, exhaustion, and 14 hour days in the vehicle. Competition in the top ten is especially fierce.

With other teams in the top five performing well over the weekend including fourth place American Team #107 Susanah and Jo Hannah Hoehn, Team #180 cannot get too comfortable.  Then again, if you know Pitell-Vaughan’s motto, “Life is CHAOS! Get out and live it…..” we can’t imagine this is a team that’ll take it easy.

A highlight of the rally - the Erg Chebbi dunes

A highlight of the rally – the Erg Chebbi dunes


6 a.m. local time (10 p.m PST)

Rankings from each Leg are not official until noon local time the next day on the official rally website:

David Brumbley


All Photos:  Maïenga