The only women’s rally raid in the world that takes place 100% off-road. For more than 30 years, the Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles has attracted drivers from all over the world to race in this women-only sporting event. Spread over nine days in the Moroccan desert, the “Gazelles” battle it out amongst sand dunes, camel grass and stunning scenery to try and be crowned rally champion.

The aim of the game? Reach the most checkpoints by driving the least kilometres! The Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles is making its comeback this year, after its 30th edition was cancelled in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Drivers will take to the desert in September: a date that Manal Faxelle, sales representative from northern France, is particularly looking forward to. Her fourth rally awaits!

Putting bold women in the spotlight

“I was 40 when I did my first rally,” explains this mother of three. “With my high heels and classic outfits, people didn’t have me down as an adventurer and many doubted I was up to such a challenge. By taking on this adventure, I wanted to show that every woman has her place in motor racing!” Created in 1990, the entrepreneur Dominique Serra was the brains behind the rally, wanting to showcase women’s bravery, boldness and strength.

In September, Manal Faxelle will support the Monaco Liver Disorder organisation, which helps children suffering from liver diseases and whose Honorary President is the Princess Charlène of Monaco. This is a project that became even closer to Manal Faxelle’s heart after her nephew underwent a liver transplant at the age of five. “Today, he’s a very healthy teenager,” she tells us, relieved.

When looking out at the never-ending sand dunes, you feel a great sense of freedom

Manal Faxelle, competitor in the Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles

Overcoming bumps in the road together

Adrenaline, tears, occasional sandstorms and unforgettable moments of joy, this rally has got it all. “When looking out at the never-ending sand dunes, you feel a great sense of freedom,” recalls this adventurer. “The landscape is constantly changing, it sometimes feels as though you’re on another planet.”

Travel Club Monaco

Raring to go, her “space gear” ready to put on, Manal Faxelle is looking forward to driving her electric Zoé across the 2,500km rally course. Along for the ride this year will be her new teammate Lisa Largillère, helping her tackle the great escape from the desert, with only “a map and compass” to guide their way.

“Sometimes you have to dig, it’s like being stuck in a sandpit,” she smiles, looking back at the moments of solidarity between the teams over the years: “we don’t think twice about stopping to help other competitors whose vehicles are broken down or buried.”

Monaco’s nurses take on the challenge

Some drivers are getting ahead of the game, already preparing for the 31st edition of the rally, which is set to take place in March 2022. “Our job means we are used to coping in high stress situations,” reassures Patricia Cappelli and Lorène Ilacqua, two nurses at the Princess Grace Hospital who are raising money for their first entry into this sporting event. “We want to have an adventure that’ll really put us to the test and see us push past our limits!”

© Pitchouns Gazelles Organisation/ Patricia Cappelli and Lorène Ilacqua will compete in the 31st edition of the Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles

“Now that so many people are working from home and businesses are facing financial difficulties due to the health and economic crises, it isn’t easy to find sponsors.” Through their organisation Pitchouns Gazelles, the two colleagues, who specialise in childcare, will be supporting the NGO Mission Enfance, namely their current project in Burkina Faso helping abandoned and orphaned children.

For more information, visit the Pitchouns Gazelles’ webpage here, or the website for the Gazelles representing the Hauts-de-France region, here.

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