Volker Mornhinweg, Head of Mercedes-Benz Vans, recently personally saw off the Mercedes-Benz Vans rallye team and wish its members well.

“The coming days will most certainly be filled with special challenges and unforgettable experiences,” said Mornhinweg. “You will surely take unique impressions home with you. For now, however, I wish you much success in the rallye – take care and have fun.” Four rallye teams from Mercedes-Benz Vans started in Paris this past weekend to participate in the Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles.

Representing Mercedes-Benz Vans: Daimler women employees, TV moderator Lina Van de Mars, and craftswomen
Five Daimler women employees will either be driving or navigating from the passenger seat during the rallye. The women already demonstrated their offroad talents last year, or were chosen from over 100 candidates in a special qualification process.

Driving in the rallye for the first time is German TV moderator Lina Van de Mars, who is not only a big motor sports enthusiast but also a highly skilled driver. The Mercedes-Benz Vans rallye team also includes two winners of a contest sponsored by a professional skilled trades magazine.

The four individual teams will drive two Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 4×4 and two Vito 4×4 models over a distance of 2,500 kilometers through the Moroccan desert to the city of Essaouira.

The winner will be the smartest team, not the fastest one
The Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles is a women-only race. This year’s event features 150 teams from 20 countries. All of the participants face a very special challenge: They need to complete the rallye’s six stages without any help from GPS systems or cell phones. They are only allowed to use electronic trip meters, compasses, and maps. In other words, the drivers not only need to be in good physical condition and display outstanding driving skills, they also have to be intelligent and agile. The winner will be the smartest team, not the fastest one, because the whole point of the race is to clock up the least number of kilometers when traveling from one checkpoint to the next.

It’s a huge challenge for the drivers and the navigators, who have to maneuver over sand dunes, around boulders, up and down extremely steep slopes, and through dried-up river beds.

Vans. Born to run.: Two Sprinter 4×4 and two Vito 4×4 models for the rallye
The eight women representing Mercedes-Benz Vans are driving two Sprinter 4×4 and two Vito 4×4 models. The new brand claim, “Vans. Born to run.,” highlights the fact that Mercedes-Benz vans stand for high quality, reliability, and robustness. The rallye vehicles correspond to current production versions in terms of their drive systems, brakes, and electronics.

The only items of equipment added to the 4×4 models for the race were rollover cages, Terratrip electronic trip meters, bucket seats, underride protection, and special desert tires. The Sprinter 4×4 for Lina Van de Mars was also given a shorter wheelbase to improve its offroad performance. The vans are participating in the rallye’s Crossover and 4×4 categories.

Donations instead of prize money
The 23rd Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles is a charity race. Instead of granting prize money, the event’s organizers will donate all of the proceeds of the rallye to doctors who provide medical care to nomads and residents of remote southern Moroccan villages. Last year alone, such donations enabled 4,000 patients to receive free medical treatment. “The charitable idea behind the rallye is perfect, because the people who are helped by the race really need this support,” says Lina Van de Mars.

Daimler employees have been successfully participating in the Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles since 2010. In 2011, they won in their category with a Vito 4×4. The Mercedes-Benz Vans rallye team is expected to arrive at the finish line in Essaouira, Morocco, on March 30.

Source: Daimler AG