Impressive Performance Keeps Team American Chaos Just Shy of the Lead Going Into Leg 5

by chaosfab on March 30, 2016

March 29th, 2016 (CORONA, CA) – In a battle of sheer will with neither challenger backing down, Team #180 American Chaos Nicole Pitell-Vaughan and Chrissie Beavis began today’s Leg just .13 km behind first place Team #179 Régine Zbinden and Ela Steiner.  Describing the highly competitive 4×4 class as fierce would be an understatement at this point, as the rally approaches the final few days with three American teams sitting in top five positions.

A great backdrop for the vehicles - the Sahara sky

A great backdrop for the vehicles – the Sahara sky

Teams rose this morning to eight checkpoints, an ideal distance of 170 km and an estimated time of nine hours ahead of them. Straight lines, a notorious sand trap, hills, and rocky terrain throughout would test drivers’ skills, experience and endurance.

The "Morocco Taco" looking comfortable in its namesake country

The “Morocco Taco” looking comfortable in its namesake country

Rough Roads Ahead

Team American Chaos’ day started out less than positive after a solid performance yesterday.  Rewind to day three,  Pitell-Vaughan and Beavis drove through a crater and their truck slammed hard on something – they weren’t sure what.  The next few days the vehicle was fine, up until this morning when the rear shock mount broke prior to reaching CP1.  The damage forced the team to drive slow and methodically straight in first and second gear dependent on the leaf pack.

Vehicles gaining ground

Vehicles gaining ground

Later between CP 6 and CP 7, Pitell-Vaughan and Beavis came across American Team #107 Jo Hannah and Susanah Hoehn. “The air ride system in their Land Rover L4 had gone out and lowered all the way down, making it impossible for the vehicle to rise back up,” said Pitell-Vaughan, herself experienced in mechanics.  Team American Chaos, in true “Gazelle Spirit,” stopped to attempt and fix the vehicle before heading on to their next CP after almost an hour.

The CRC/TOTAL CHAOS Toyota Tacoma in the thick of the competition

The CRC/TOTAL CHAOS Toyota Tacoma in the thick of the competition

The admirable move unfortunately spent daylight, and Pitell-Vaughan and Beavis did not arrive at the bivouac until after first place Team #179.  With a longer day spent in the vehicle for Team American Chaos, the move may have cost precious minutes of evening rest before the second grueling Marathon Leg tomorrow.

Driver's view

Driver’s view

Big Picture

With six official competition days behind the teams, vehicles are starting to show their wear and tear.  Although this is not a race for speed, the rough rocky terrain and extreme conditions of the rally may begin to take their toll as the competition heads towards the finish.  And teams need to be strategic moving and planning for solutions to save kilometers.

Case in point:  In 2014, seasoned competitors Syndiely Wade and Florence Pham miscalculated a CP, leading them to a route over an extremely rocky area. They literally got out of the vehicle to physically move huge boulders, creating a route to drive through to shave off distance.  Although they did not end up winning, it’s strategy like that which keep competitors in the game

It’s safe to say in true “Gazelle Rally” fashion, anything is possible in these final few days.


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/Nicole Dreon