Mercedes-Benz Vans sets up rally team: Lina Van de Mars to join women employees from Daimler in the Aïcha des Gazelles 2013

After a challenging selection process, the participants of this year’s Aïcha des Gazelles rally have now been chosen. In 2013 Mercedes-Benz Vans will send four teams driving Sprinter and Vito vehicles into the desert. Reinforced by motor sports enthusiast Lina Van de Mars, the female employees from Daimler will take part in the Aïcha des Gazelles rally on behalf of the company. “Clichés about women drivers are totally passé,” replies Lina Van de Mars when questioned whether having women drive is a good idea.

Participants have been selected

Women employees from Daimler have successfully taken part in the desert rally since 2010. In 2011 they even came in first in the SUV category with a Vito. This year, more than 100 women responded to the company’s in-house call for participants. In addition to being physically fit, French language skills were required for the application. In an intense selection process, Astrid Ebermann, 29, from the Mannheim plant, and Sabrina Trillmann, 27, from Mercedes-Benz Accessories in Stuttgart, ultimately beat 16 other finalists and were chosen to take part in the rally. The women attended a selection camp in the Swabian Alb region, where they had to demonstrate their driving skills, technical expertise, and team spirit. “It was awesome! I couldn’t believe it at first and had to look twice to be sure that my name really was on the list,” says Astrid Ebermann about her reaction when the participants were announced. “The selection days were very exciting, the competition was pretty tough, and at the end it was really neck and neck.”

Besides the newly selected duo, three Daimler women employees who had already taken part in last year’s rally will once again drive for the Mercedes-Benz Vans team. The team will also get support from TV host and car expert Lina Van de Mars, 33. As a dedicated motor sports enthusiast, she will assist the Daimler team with her expertise. “I’m delighted to be a part of the team, because the desert rally is a premier motor sports event and represents a major challenge,” says Lina Van de Mars.

In a first for Mercedes-Benz Vans, two of the women who will be taking part this year had responded to an ad in a professional skilled trades magazine. One of the women is a body shop employee, while the other is an optician.

The vehicles from Mercedes-Benz Vans

Daimler will use four Mercedes-Benz vans: two Vitos and two Sprinters. As expressed by the new brand claim “Vans. Born to run,” vehicles from Mercedes-Benz Vans stand for top quality, reliability, and a robust design. These characteristics also qualify the vehicles for rally use. The vehicles have been only slightly modified. Among other things, the Vito and Sprinter vans were equipped with rollover cages, Terratrip electronic trip meters, bucket seats, fire extinguishers, underride protection, and special desert tires. However, the powertrains, the brakes, and the vehicles’ electronic systems are all standard equipment for the vans.

Only the Sprinter that will be driven by Lina Van de Mars was modified to a greater extent, as it will have a shorter wheelbase to further improve its off-road capabilities, especially when driving through narrow valleys between sand dunes.

The “Rallye Aicha des Gazelles”

The “Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles 2013” will kick off in Paris on March 16 and end in Essaouira, Morocco, on March 30. Only women are eligible to take part. The rally has six stages, during which the vehicles will drive a distance of more than 2,500 kilometers in total across sand dunes, rocky stretches, steep slopes, and dry river beds.

The winner is determined not on the basis of which team is the fastest, but which one is able to find the shortest route between the checkpoints in the allotted time. The teams are equipped with electronic trip meters, compasses, maps, and rulers, as GPS devices and cellphones are not permitted.

The participants will not receive a reward or prize money, since the proceeds of the rally are used to finance teams of doctors who care for nomads and inhabitants of remote villages and settlements in Southern Morocco throughout the year.

Credits: Daimler AG

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