All-women off-road Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles finishes up

Photo: Nicole Dreon / Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles
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Last week showcased one of the more interesting and unusual motorsports events of the year: the Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles.

It’s an all-women rally event that’s been occurring for 26 years. It kicked off near Erfoud, Morocco and ran across the country from March 23 to 31, with the final finishing gala on April 2.

Teams of two, a driver and navigator, must pilot their vehicles to a series of hidden checkpoints using only maps and compasses, before meeting each night in a series of desert encampments. The challenge is strictly analog; GPS and other electronic aids are prohibited for the duration. The team that achieves the most direct route, chalking up the fewest miles over the course of nine competition days, is the winner.

rallygazelleslogoEight U.S. teams entered into the rally among the 162 total teams. Some of the entrants with racing pedigrees included:

  • Chrissie Beavis, co-driver for Travis Pastrana/Subaru Rally Team USA in Rally America
  • Nicole Pitell-Vaughan, an off-road racer and fabricator in southern California (Beavis’ teammate)
  • Emme Hall, an off-road racer and journalist for CNet

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Beavis, of San Diego, and Pitell-Vaughan, of Corona, Calif. (pictured above; Photo: Nicole Dreon / Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles), were the highest finishing pairing among the eight teams entered, and ended second in the race in their No. 180 Toyota Tacoma.

They finished an estimated 1.1 miles behind their closest rivals, the Swiss duo of Regine Zbinden and Ela Steiner. It was an historic finish for an all-U.S. team in the contest.

The previous best finish for an American in the 4×4 division was in 2011 when U.S. driver Emily Miller partnered with French navigator Armelle Medard and scored a runner-up result. Beavis won the Crossover category in 2015 alongside driver Alyssa Roenigk.

“It was fun to shoot for the win,” Beavis said. “I’ve been really proud to be here for three years and to have done well in it.”

In her rookie year, Beavis, who is an X Games gold medalist for rally, competed alongside professional surfer Bethany Hamilton in 2013 and finished ninth.

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Susanah and Jo Hannah Hoehn, of Carlsbad, Calif., were third – and had an assist from their mother, Karen Hoehn (all three pictured above; Photo: Nicole Dreon / Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles).

The Hoehn sisters held a podium position throughout the rally but had a tense night on Thursday after the air suspension on their No. 107 Land Rover LR4 went out and mechanics at the overnight camp did not have the parts to repair it. But their mother, Karen Hoen, who had put a solid run on the event as a rookie alongside Maureen Gibbons in the No. 181 Land Rover LR4, gave up parts from her vehicle and abandoned their effort so that the sisters could continue their podium charge.

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Karen Hoehn and Gibbons, both of Del Mar, Caif. (pictured above, Photo: Nicole Dreon / Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles), were also among the U.S. team entrants as both are first-time competitors. Hoehn said she’d do the rally as a way to celebrate her 60th birthday later this year.

“I want to give it my best efforts, but my goals are realistic to my level of experience. To find several, if not all, of the checkpoints and be able to return to the bivouac each night, regardless of our mileage, will be just fine with me,” she said after the Prologue.

They finished 110th after taking penalties for missing the marathon final stage.

Other results of note:

  • Emme Hall, Oakland, Calif., and Sabrina Howells, from Los Angeles (fifth)
  • Susie Saxten and Ivy Cass, both from Encinitas, Calif. (ninth)
  • Teresa Stewart, from Kauai, Hawaii, and Sara Jehn, from Oahu, Hawaii, (20th) in 4×4, fifth of 96 teams in the novice category (main image picture).
  • Elaine Newkirk, from Rancho Santa Fe, California, and Keely Sellers, from Kihei, Hawaii (29th)
  • Catherine Chiadmi (St. Petersburg, Fla.) and Cecile Vinson (Vaucluse, France) finished the rally ranked 102nd in their Jeep Wrangler. A month after her event debut in 2013, Chiadmi was diagnosed with a brain tumor bigger than a baseball. She vowed during recovery that she would return to the contest. “This year’s rally was a challenge to myself,” she said. “I wanted to push myself to the limit and prove to myself that nothing is impossible. That all you have to do is believe.”

Other photos of note (All photos: Nicole Dreon / Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles):

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Eight American teams took the start line for the 2016 Rallye Aicha des Gazelles. Four of those teams finished in the top 10 of the 4 x 4 class — the best-ever American showing. On Friday, competitors left the harsh desert of the Sahara and arrived at the ocean in Essaouira, a port city and resort on Morocco’s Atlantic coast. Here, the American teams pose on the beach with some local camels before the rally’s annual parade. An estimated 1,200 people turned out to watch.

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The object of the Rallye Aicha des Gazelles is to navigate an as-the-crow-flies route through a series of hidden checkpoints in the Sahara Desert of Morocco. Using only a compass, and maps printed in the 1950s, competitors must plot a straight-line course across 650 miles of hostile desert terrain, off-roading across sand dunes, mountains, rocky lakebeds, ruts and washes.

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Team #184 were surprise contenders in 2016. Susie Saxten returned this year for her second run on the event, joined by longtime friend Ivy Cass — a rookie driver. “I was really nervous coming here and about breaking the car. I didn’t want to let Susie down,” said Ivy Cass. “When I left California, I was waiting to hear from medical schools. Being at the rally has helped me to take my mind off it. I think I also proved to myself that I can do something that I didn’t think I could, and I can apply that to my medical school path.”

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When we’re driving, [my teammate] Sabrina and I like to joke about ourselves. I say there is ‘Emme from the rally’ who would kill it at the gym. And then there is ‘real-life Emme’ who does 30 minutes of cardio and eats cereal for dinner. If I were ‘Emme from the rally’ all the time, I would be so successful.”

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During the first marathon leg teams took on the Erg Chebbi dunes. The dunes are the only place where teams are allowed to work together, and they must frequently stop to dig themselves out of loose sand. Nicole Pitell-Vaughan and Chrissie Beavis, both motorsport competitors in the U.S.A., are no exception. Here they carry their MATRAX back to their car.

2023 SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston: Eli Tomac retakes 450 lead, Hunter Lawrence tops 250s

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After his Anaheim 2 crash, Eli Tomac was surprised he was not injured, but despite getting knocked down momentarily, he picked himself up, rode to last week’s win and reascended to the top of the SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston. This is the third time in three weeks Tomac has topped the rankings.

SuperMotocross Power Rankings Houston
Jason Anderson has back-to-back podiums to his credit and sits second in the Power Rankings. – Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

Last week, Tomac finished second in his heat before winning the Main – and that translated to near-perfect points in the Power Rankings, which award 100 for a win in the feature and 90 for a heat victory. Tomac’s average was marred by the Houston accident when he finished 13th in that heat before settling just outside the top five in overall standings. Racing is about bouncing back and last year’s Supercross and Motocross champion Tomac did just that as he chases a third consecutive title.

Jason Anderson earned his second consecutive podium finish with a third at Houston. He momentarily rolled past Aaron Plessinger into second during a restart following an accident involving Dylan Ferrandis and held that position for four trips around the track until he was tracked down by Chase Sexton. Afterward Anderson faded and finished 12 seconds off the pace, but along with a heat win, he easily leapfrogged Ken Roczen and Cooper Webb, who struggled in the fourth race of the season.

MORE: Eli Tomac rebounds from Anaheim 2 crash with Houston win

Webb held his position by passing Roczen in NBC’s SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston. Webb has been solid in 2023 with a worst moto result of seventh in the first Triple Crown race at Anaheim 2, but in order to be considered a solid challenger to Tomac he needs to win either a heat or main this week in Tampa.

Roczen was involved in the incident that sidelined Ferrandis in Houston. Racing for eighth at the time, his bike may have sustained some damage when Ferrandis landed on his back tire, but he was not overly impressive in his heat either with a fifth-place finish. That was enough to drop him three positions in the standings, but he still has Tomac in sight.

After his disappointing heat in San Diego when he crashed and sustained enough damage to place him last, Sexton has roared back. He won the overall in Anaheim 2’s Triple Crown format and narrowed the points’ gap slightly on Tomac. Last week he yarded the field in his heat race and won by a wide margin. A modest start in the Main kept him from getting to Tomac’s back wheel early in the Houston round, and he lost a little ground in the championship.

450 Rankings

This
Week
Rider Power
Avg.
Last
Week
Diff.
1 Eli Tomac
[3 Main; 3 Heats Wins]
85.20 2 1
2 Jason Anderson
[2 Heat Wins]
82.60 4 2
3 Cooper Webb 82.10 3 0
4 Ken Roczen 81.70 1 -3
5 Chase Sexton
[1 Main; 3 Heat Wins]
80.70 6 1
6 Dylan Ferrandis 71.60 5 -1
7 Aaron Plessinger 71.30 8 1
8 Justin Barcia 70.10 7 -1
9 Justin Cooper 68.00 NA
10 Adam Cianciarulo 67.40 9 -1
11 Joey Savatgy 61.20 10 -1
12 Marvin Musquin 61.00 10 -2
13 Malcolm Stewart
[1 Heat Win]
58.75 11 -2
14 Christian Craig 57.20 13 -1
15 Colt Nichols 56.50 14 -1
16 Dean Wilson 49.30 15 -1
17 Justin Hill 39.67 18 1
18 Shane McElrath 36.33 22 4
19 Brandon Scharer 34.00 21 2
20 Logan Karnow 33.33 19 -1

Supercross 450 Points


The 250 East division debuted in Houston and with only one race – and therefore no chance yet to stumble – three of their riders jumped to the top of the chart.

Hunter Lawrence had a perfect week with wins in both his main and heat. It wasn’t without drama, however, as he was forced to jump wide early in the feature to avoid contact with Tom Vialle, who was making his Supercross debut. Without a former 250 champion in the field, it is guaranteed someone new will grace the top of the box at Salt Lake City after the season-ender and it looks like it’s going to be Lawrence’s to lose.

SuperMotocross Power Rankings Houston
Jordon Smith’s last podium before Houston came four years ago in Detroit. – Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

It was more than four years ago that Jordon Smith scored his last Supercross podium in Detroit. Despite finishing second that afternoon, he was battling a wrist injury that eventually sidelined him. More injuries have followed, but Smith was a favorite to win the title in 2019 and he’s shown how well he can ride when he’s healthy.

Debuting third in the Houston SuperMotocross Power Rankings, Max Anstie moved from the 450 class last year to 250s in 2023 and the change has gone better than he anticipated. Finishing second in both his heat and main, Anstie was edged by Smith because he finished second behind that rider in their heat. That is Anstie’s first top-10 since finishing sixth at Southwick, Massachusetts last year on his 450. In that race, he scored fifth-place results in both motos.

Supercross 250 Points

Haiden Deegan proved the hype surrounding his graduation into the 250 class was well deserved and he landed fourth in his division and fifth overall in the SuperMotocross Power Rankings. In his first professional Supercross race, he finished fourth in his heat. In a field with twice the talent, he finished fourth again in the main. At Houston, he balanced aggression with patience. Now that he has a taste of that success, everyone will be watching him closely at Tampa to see if he can continue tiptoeing on the line.

Michael Mosiman, Jeremy Martin, and Vialle are tied for fifth in the 250 East division and seventh overall.

Vialle is the most notable of these three because he challenged for a podium position during the Main before making a mistake and falling in a turn. Significantly, this was not only his 250 debut, but his first time in Supercross. As with Deegan, he has generated a lot of attention for the coming weeks.

250 Rankings

This
Week
Rider Power
Avg.
Last
Week
Diff.
1 Hunter Lawrence – E
[1 Main; 1 Heat Win]
95.00 NA
2 Jordon Smith – E
[1 Heat Win]
90.50 NA
2 Max Anstie – E 90.50 NA
4 Jett Lawrence – W
[2 Main; 2 Heat Wins]
89.13 1 -3
5 Haiden Deegan – E 81.50 NA
6 Cameron McAdoo – W
[1 Heat Win]
77.63 2 -4
7 Mitchell Oldenburg – W 77.00 3 -4
7 Michael Mosiman – E 77.00 NA
7 Jeremy Martin – E 77.00 NA
7 Tom Vialle – E 77.00 NA
11 Stilez Robertson – W
[1 Heat Win]
76.75 4 -7
12 Chance Hymas – E 74.50 -12
13 Levi Kitchen – W
[1 Main Win]
73.75 5 -8
14 RJ Hampshire – W
[3 Heat Wins]
70.00 6 -8
15 Max Vohland – W 69.29 7 -8
16 Cullin Park – E 66.00 NA
17 Chris Blose – E 65.50 NA
18 Derek Kelley – W 63.75 8 -10
19 Enzo Lopes – W 63.25 9 -10
20 Pierce Brown – W 61.29 10 -10

* The NBC Power Rankings assign 100 points to a Main event winner and 90 points for each Heat and Triple Crown win, (Triple Crown wins are included with heat wins below the rider’s name). The points decrement by a percentage equal to the number of riders in the field until the last place rider in each event receives five points. The Power Ranking is the average of these percentage points over the past 45 days.

POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 3 AT ANAHEIM 2: Consistency makes Ken Roczen king
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 2 AT SAN DIEGO: Roczen moves up, Chase Sexton falls
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 1 AT ANAHEIM 1: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence gain an early advantage