In it to win it: the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter.

A map, a compass and the road: Aïcha des Gazelles.

Excelling themselves year after year at the all-female desert rally.

Where the horizon is but a distant mirage.

As early as biblical times, the desert was a place of transformation and enlightenment. And it still is today. Certainly when you find yourself there with nothing more than a ruler, a map and a compass, armed with the task of covering 2500 kilometres in two weeks, together with your partner in just one vehicle.

Torn away from the daily grind, where mobile phones and navigation systems are as usual as high heels and nail varnish and teamed up with a partner who you are still getting to know, every woman participating in the Aïcha des Gazelles rally finishes it as a different woman to the woman they once were. This is one of the last real adventures of our time. And one only destined for women.

Always on the right track, even in the middle of nowhere: the transporters from Mercedes-Benz.

Prudence takes priority.

The first Aïcha des Gazelles was organised by Dominique Serra in 1990. A rally right through the desert of Morocco, for female participants only. The project was originally intended to counter prejudices regardless the supposedly weaker sex. However, with support from the Moroccan royal family, it became one of the most important French motorsport events within the shortest amount of time. It has since attracted attention from all over the world – a world which looks on in fascination at the female drivers aged between 18 and 65 who dare to take on the challenging 2500 kilometre route. 33 nationalities are represented here. And what makes this rally different? Speed is not the deciding factor. The teams need to pass a number of checkpoints, where the mileage clocked is far more important than the time taken. In other words, the less the better.

The rally is not about speed, but having fun, ability - and protecting the environment. The least amount of kilometres secures victory.

To help them reach their destination, the participants are given a compass, a map and a ruler. Anything resembling modern technology is a no-go – apart from the vehicle that is. Proceeds from the event are donated to a good cause.

A winner from Mercedes-Benz: the Vito put in a superb performance at the desert rally.

No challenge too great.

The greater the challenge, the more important it is to have a sturdy vehicle you can rely on. Coralie Lejeune and Susanne Ehmer took fifth place for Mercedes-Benz driving a Vito. Following closely behind were Sabrina Mayer and Larissa Lauber, securing sixth place in a Sprinter. And seventh place went to Sabrina Trillmann and Astrid Ebermann, also on board a Vito. In order to meet the special requirements of such as race, the vehicle was equipped with roll cages, Terratrip, mileage counter, bucket seats, fire extinguisher, accident protection measures and special desert tyres. Drive train, brakes and vehicle electronics were, however, 100% standard design. After all, when it comes to the Vito basics: never change a winning team.

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