The Essaouira beach, red carpet for the official finish

Essaouira | Prize-giving ceremony

A star reception

After nine days of intense competition, the Gazelles deserve their star reception on the beach this Saturday morning. The teams are welcomed by numerous supporters and families who flew in from France for the occasion, such as the 22 friends and family members of Ingrid and Mylène of Team 40 (Ingrid AMBLARD / Mylène MEJEAN), who came from Alès to cheer on their champion at the official finish. “They were great!”, they exclaim enthusiastically. “Betty is a real competitor, it’s in her genes”, enthuses the technician who has been preparing the quads for Team 39 (Betty KRAFT / Sonia BAUDOIN-GUERARD) for nine years now.

For the official finish of this 30th edition, the Gazelles are given a superb gift: the Royal Moroccan Air Force aerobatic display team, “Marche Verte”, puts on an airborne show before the amazed eyes of the public. The parade along the beach is accompanied by a chorus of honking horns, or sirens in the case of the fire truck.

The winning teams of each category parade under the finish arch. As they pass by, the Gazelles wave to the organizers. “Thank you all! calls Yasmina of Team 190 (Rachel DAUPHIN / Yasmina CHEMAO). Even at the finish line, solidarity is still the order of the day: Sophie and Julie of Team 143 (Julie KOHLMANN / Sophie FABRI) invite Karima and Anne-Marie of team 142 (Karima LAAROUSSI MOUHYI / Anne-Marie BORG), who have been out of the Rallye since the first leg after an irreparable mechanical issue, to ride on their 4×4.

“This 30th edition marks a new start for Morocco”

Once parked, the Gazelles make their way to the patio of Hotel Medina, just steps from the beach, for the prize-giving ceremony. They enter through an honour guard formed by all the Rallye organizers, who applaud them. Some are extremely moved, like Vanessa of Team 182 (Fanette CADOU / Vanessa PAILLET), who can hardly hold back her tears.

This 30th edition was complicated, but we made it, and it is thanks to you”, announces Dominique before calling onto the stage, by her side, the entire Maïenga team, who fought since the first postponement in March 2020 so that the event could take place. The members of Maïenga are joined by the rest of the organizers, to whom the Gazelles pay tribute with a standing ovation.You are all links in the chain; thank you for your kindness and generosity”, thanks Dominique. And what could be better than a video to discover, through images, the daily work of the organizers on location.

Absent for personal reasons, the patron of the Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles du Maroc, Christine Lagarde, sends a message of congratulations to the Gazelles, promising to be there in March 2022 for the 31st edition. Other prominent figures also pay tribute to the teams, including André Azoulay, Advisor to His Majesty the King of Morocco. “The greatest prize of these thirty years of existence is you, Dominique”, he says, before adding: “This 30th edition marks a new start for Morocco”.

The Governor of Essaouira, Mr. El Maliki, and the Director of the Moroccan National Tourist Office, Mr. El Fakir, are in attendance as well as Mrs. El Hairy, State Secretary for Youth and Engagement, who stresses: “You have managed to do the incredible!”. Many partners have also made the trip. A video is shown paying tribute to the partners, without whom the Rallye would not exist.

Pampering the teams

The podium for each category then comes on stage to receive their prizes, starting with Quad/SSV, “a class that is growing”. Before the podium for 4×4 Class, Team 240 (Juliette LEPAGE / Dominique CAPDEVIELLE / Sandrine LEPAGE) is called on stage and receives an ovation from the Gazelles. “I am very proud. We did it; the Mirage team is part of the Gazelles family. Thank you all, I will remember all the wonderful experiences and people”, says Juliette, the youngest participant in this year’s adventure, for whom taking part in the Rallye was a double challenge as a blind woman with Asperger’s.

I was lucky enough to follow you for a few days, and I can tell you that this is a magical rally, long live the Rallye!”, says Stéphane Ducreau, CEO of Koni, who presents the prizes to the three winners in 4×4 Class. The winners in each class receive a trophy and numerous gifts from Rallye partners. All participants also receive a beautiful black and gold medal, made by Provençale creator Marie Portefais, and engraved with the words “Gazelle un jour, Gazelle toujours”.

The winners of the day are not all judged for their performance. TheEuro 4×4 Parts  Beauty Car Challenge for the vehicle wrap voted best by the Gazelles is awarded to Team 142 (Karima LAAROUSSI MOUHYI / Anne-Marie BORG), while the Goodyear Solidarity Challenge is awarded to Team 238 (Hélène GRAND'EURY / Charlotte ZUCCONI). “From the moment we were out of the ranking, we said to ourselves, why not make ourselves useful. So we were there, and we helped a lot of Gazelles get back on track”, says Hélène. New this year, a jury composed of members of the Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles SER Committee voted for the best aid project, choosing the association Toutes à l’écolerepresented by Team . Maïenga presents them with a cheque for 10,000 euros to support this association. “Without education, the country does not advance. Educated women teach their children, and that is how the world moves forward”, says Sophie.