Dr. Julien Lorber, always there for the Gazelles

Around the rally

Julien, 40 years old, is an emergency doctor in Saint-Nazaire, France. This year, he is also the head of the Covid Unit set up by the Rallye organizer. This is by no means his first rally: he has 12 to his credit, including 10 with Maïenga.

Without this medical unit dedicated to protecting the participants and the local populations, the Rallye would not have been able to take place this year.

We set out to learn more about Julien.

Julien became part of the rally organization quite by chance, as he had no particular affinity with cars, motorsports or camping, but he was attracted by the desert. So when he was approached to take part, he accepted. “Now I’m really happy and even addicted to the Rallye, and especially happy to be back with the Maïenga family. It’s become a bit like a drug for me.”

While he is completely crazy about the Maïenga family, Julien was first won over by the actual Serra-Vrillacq family, a close-knit clan that has succeeded in creating a loyal family of friends, with volunteers who come back, year after year. For him, the strong characters at the heart of the event are Dominique, Marina, and Valérie of the medical team, who are the true foundation of the Rallye adventure.

An optimist by nature

Julien has 2 main observations about this year’s edition: “From a glass half full point of view, the Rallye was postponed several times, and everyone put the energy needed to make it finally happen. Among other things, everyone got vaccinated. I see it as an incentive for vaccination. Everyone got vaccinated; while there were no bad reasons not to, there were only good reasons to do it. This rally even provided an extra push for some who were hesitating and who ended up doing it. Then we worked on setting up the strictest health protocol possible, to prevent Covid from spreading across the bivouac and, above all, to the Moroccan population. That is really our number one priority. It was also important to get back to work in Morocco, because the people need the contact, and because it provides work for them. But not at any price. So we needed to impose strict – very strict – safety protocols to allow us to hold this rally under the best possible conditions.

Emotions and the Gazelles

The image of the Gazelles is one of emotions, of closeness, where they are frequently hugging each other. These are strong, celebratory images. Julien hopes that, thanks to this very strict protocol, we will be able to recreate these images. Everyone fought so hard that it created a burst of positive energy. “You only have to see the look on people’s faces, even without taking their masks off, to see how happy they are to be together again, to do the rally, and to have the impression that they have moved mountains to get here,” adds Julien, smiling behind his mask.

Positive PCR test?

When I ask him what will happen if a PCR test is positive, either for an organizer or a Gazelle, he doesn’t hesitate: “Clearly, the person won’t be allowed on the boat! We’re not taking any risks, especially for the local populations. And if someone develops Covid once we’re there, we have isolation measures for anyone with symptoms. Anyone suspected of having Covid will be tested, either an antigen test or a PCR test, with isolation measures in accordance with Moroccan recommendations. That means isolation in a government-approved hotel for as long as necessary with close monitoring in the unlikely event of a more severe form. But since we’re all vaccinated, the risk is extremely low.

Memories, memories

Of all these years spent at the heart of the Rallye, Julien has one particular memory that undoubtedly strengthens his admiration for the Maïenga family: “It’s true that I fell in love with Morocco, but also with the Maïenga family, and one of my strongest memories is not of the desert, but of the time I managed to enter Morocco without a passport! One year I forgot my passport, and I don’t know what magic they used, but Maïenga managed to get me in without a passport after hours of discussion! That memory will always stay with me.”

Completely hooked?

I really admire what Dominique has managed to accomplish; she has turned prejudices on their head. Yes, it’s a motor sport, but she has turned it into a fascinating, life-sized game that made me want to say: what about us men?

So when she created the GAM (Gazelles and Men) rally-raid, I was eager to take part, but …wow, it’s hard!

The Gazelles accomplish incredible things, cross impossible obstacles… they have all my admiration! I also admire the determination of many of the volunteers, who put themselves at the service of the Gazelles. We’re all drawn in the same direction, and that gives real strength to this organization, which for me is one of a kind among all the sports medical organizations I know. 

If I had a message for Dominique, especially after these last few months, I would say, Let’s go for 30 more years! I’m ready for the next 30!