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Automotive Traveler Magazine: 2011 03 Gazelle Rally Day Four Page 1

2011 Gazelle Rally, Day Four

The dunes of Morocco beckon competitors in the 2011 Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles. A top team is unranked and the U.S.-French partnership of Team Miller Medard moves into the second spot.

By Carmen Madrid

As I wrote in my Day Three report on the 2011 Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles, the standings could shift like the desert sand. And they did.

Never is it good when misfortune touches a competition. And for some reason, it seems to be amplified when one of the top contenders is at the center of the unfortunate event.

Such was the case Sunday in Morocco, when Team 129 (Jeanette James of Great Britain and Anne Marie Borg of France) rolled their Mercedes Benz 4x4 Viano while circumventing a dune. Thankfully, neither of the women was hurt.

The Daimler team mechanic headed out to the site from the bivouac with a replacement part, apparently a starter. The summons knocked the two women from the competition. According to the rally Sporting Regulations, the team--which had held the second spot at the start of Day Four--is now considered "unranked."

After completing all seven X checkpoints (the most difficult of the three options available to the participants through the Merzouga Dunes), the U.S.-French partnership of Emily Miller and Armelle Medard moved up to second place in the overall standings.

"The dunes are why I compete in this event," says Miller, a Rod Hall Racing champion. Yes, it is. And my post tomorrow will give a little more insight into just what the dunes mean to her.

For now, she and navigator Medard of France, a former Gazelle champion, prepare for their first marathon leg. They are the first American-French team to participate in the Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles.

What about Team 107, the American sisters who are first-time Gazelles? Well, Amy Lerner and Tricia Reina came to compete. They could have opted for one of the less-challenging courses on Day Four through the dunes, but they didn't. Impressively, they took on the X checkpoints, something few rookies ever do. According to the official results on the rally website, Team Lerner Reina nailed three of the seven checkpoints before calling it a day. Awesome!

Next up, the first of two marathon legs. The Gazelles spend the night out in the desert under the brilliance of the stars. Serene? Unsettling? We'll find out tomorrow.