Everyday feelings of those who are not specially famous but who dare the challenge and give a dream for those who stay behind...
TUNISIAN RALLYE TEAM
"Hend Chaouch (Nissan) - n°324 - "I am also a business woman with a leasure project in Tunisia. I am the pioneer of women in Tunisian motorsports. For 8 years, I have been on all rally raids across the world. It's my second Dakar. Last year, I finished without assistance. I'm back this year on a Nissan prepared by the Dessoude team. Unlike Abla (Lassoued), I have sponsors. Banks and the Tunisian government help me a lot. Thanks to my results, I finished 95% of the races I did, I can carry on living my passion. I started when I was 15 years old in motorsports, riding a bike. I was part of the Tunisia motoclub and I was the only woman. I was lucky enough to have very understanding parents. I did my first rally as a pilot in 1994. In 1996, I did the rally of Tunisia: my first rally raid. It has become a drug. I don't drink, I don't smoke but I am addicted to fuel and motorsports. In my first rally in 1996, I was with my co-pilot and we broke our GPS system in a field of dunes. This year on the Dakar, I'm not saying it'll be a piece of cake but all the dunes are the same. This year, I have a new car, a new co-pilot and I hope to finish again. Last year, I was so happy, and I had dreamt of it for so long that I forgot to do the official picture to give to my sponsors. I was so moved that I fell in tears in the arms of Roger Kalmanovitz. My performance was fantastically welcomed in Tunisia. Everyone was chearing me. In Tunisia we have a very modern political system. Our president encourages women a lot as well as individual sports. Unlike other arab countries, we have proven that Tunisia was well present in all fields with athlete women as well as embassadors and ministers. I hope to do as well but my biggest fear is having mechanical worries. I absolutely want to be in the 40% of competitors that finish the rally. Even if it's in last position. To be on the finish line in Sharm El Sheikh would be a performance. For me, the Dakar is a legendary event, the greatest rally in the world."
"Nadia Gammoudi (Nissan) - n°326 - "I am the first Arab women to be a rally driver. I have the same age as the Dakar. I was 25 years old on the 4th of January during the Dakar. It's my 12th rally: 3 Portuguese Bajas, 3 Dakars, 3 rallies of Tunisia, 2 rallies of Egypt and a rally of Brazil. On my first two Dakars, I didn't make it to the end. I hope to get to Sharm El Sheikh this year. On my first two races, I only had two spare wheels and that was all. It was a nightmare in the sand. We had to get all our suitcases out because all our stuff was in the car. It's really important to have an assistance. This first year I had a tank problem on the car and during the technical scrutineering, they didn't want to let me start. They finally gave me the green light feeling that I wouldn't pass the first dune. I actually managed to do 14 stages. So I've done the most difficult part. I had been penalised quite a lot and that's why I was finally put out of the race. During that edition, I would do the special but never make it on time at the Check point. Had I taken the highway, I could have gone further. I even started a stage at 10h00 to finish it only the next morning at 9h00. I would then immediately carry on with the next stage. To go on I would only count on my will. My moral is my main asset.The next year, I still didn't have an assistance. Three days before the finish, I broke my transmission box. I started driving when I was 22 during the rally of Egypt. Before that, I absolutey wasn't interested in motorsports. I was the equestrian champion of Tunisia and Maghreb. Then a Tunisian driver was looking for a sponsor to go to the Portuguese Baja. He asked me to come for media reasons. And it worked out. We did the race and I caught the rally virus. From then on, I continued. I knew that before me, two Tunisain women had already been co-pilots but none had driven. So I said to myself:'why not me?' Concerning the Dakar, my adventure started in 2001. Two weeks before the start, I decided to go for it but I didn't have a sponsor. And so my father decided to help me out and be my main sponsor. Because I had taken my decision so late, I didn't have a real co-pilot but only someone who had a visa for France. We learnt a lot on driving, mechanics and specially the human aspect of the race. I learnt to have respect for the others. I made myself a lot of friends. I help everyone. On my first Dakar, I gave my two spare wheels. This year, my new co-pilot (Fathi Boughami) is a real 'desert fox'. We've been friends for a long time and he's done a lot of rally raids. He helps me a lot telling me to do this and that. He's my big brother on the Dakar. This year we are three Tunisian women on the race. There's a real competition between us. On the road I won't however hesitate to help them out. Each year, the Dakar is a new story with a lot of emoton and magnificent things."
"Abla Lassoued (Mitsubishi) - n°334 - "I am a Tunisian business woman. I work in tourism. I have a travel agency in Paris and in Tunis. I am the mother of three children, two boys and a girl. I don't have a sponsor. My sponsor is myself. I am proud to be Tunisian and an arab muslim women. The only thing I wanted to have on the car was the Tunisian flag. I thought to myself: 'this race is made for me' so I went for it. Since 1996, I wanted to do the Dakar but never had the time. My friendship with Hend Chaouch was the thing that pushed me to go for such an adventure this year. Due to my business that takes a lot of my time, I only decided to go 15 days before the start of the race. I'm driving a Mitsubishi and Ralliart takes care of my assistance. I am not scared of the desert. I come from the south of Tunisia and the desert is my home. My only goal is to make it to Sharm El Sheikh. Inch Allah!"