March 15, 2014, the official start date. The “gazelles” have just a few days to go. They have been waiting for this moment for months, their feelings hovering between the thrill of excitement and the fear of not making the cut, all the time with a single desire: to take part in an extraordinary adventure that thousands would like to experience in their place. The rally starts out from Place du Trocadéro in Paris and finishes in Essaouira, Morocco 15 days later. Besides overtaking the other participants – this is a race, after all – the main objective is to exceed one’s own limits in a desert that seems to have no limits at all.
But before that, the seven two-woman teams, selected after weeks of preparation and tests requiring unfailing determination, complete their preparatory training, including media training, a navigation course and a driving course. This phase readies the Renault employees for the endless sands of the desert, hoping that none of those billions of grains will hinder the performance of their sparkling-new Dacia Duster.
The test period is anything but a walk in the park. Out of the 130 candidates, 50 are shortlisted and 25 two-person teams compete to become one of the final teams. The test includes physical activities (weights, jogging, orienteering) and mechanical aspects (checking water and oil levels), culminating in an assault course and psychological workshops. The aim is to measure the potential contestants’ physical and mental qualities, including their athletic abilities, tenacity, determination, resilience, courage and solidarity, as well as their team decision-making abilities, stress management and tactical approach to the competition. Inside every woman lies an adventurer.
The gazelles will arrive in the port town of Essaouira and its refreshing Mediterranean feel after their long trek through miles and miles of desert, although the objective is to notch up the lowest mileage possible. To withstand the desert and ensure peerless reliability, the Dacia Dusters are specially prepared at the Technocentre prototype production center, where they are fit with reinforced suspension systems and aluminum skis under the rear deck and equipped with a luminous compass on the dashboard, a second spare wheel, and a Terratrip tripmeter to measure precise distances (to within 20 meters) of less than a kilometer.
We will be following their adventures eagerly, wishing them all the best.