Mercedes-Benz is competing in the 25th Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles with four teams. A small team from Stuttgart has spent weeks working on two Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and two Mercedes-Benz Vito to complete the technical preparations and make sure they are ready for this year's Aïcha des Gazelles rally. Now we will see whether their work has paid off and the vehicles are ready to tackle the around 2,500 km navigation challenge through the Moroccan desert.
Despite the perfect platform featuring the optional all-wheel drive for the Sprinter and Vito, the team from Stuttgart had a lot to do. The Sprinter was also fitted with large wheels with a course profile, a roll cage, reinforced dampers and a stainless steel underride guard. Given the rough rally route, the team had to ensure that parts such as the oil sump and the differentials at the front and rear are protected. The two Vito required a little more modification because they are lower and require even better underbody protection. In addition, the wheel openings in the mud guards were expanded to provide enough space for the 17 inch wheels. The team also ensured that all of the vehicles have the electronically controlled Tripmaster on-board for navigation.
The Stuttgart team's job is not finished with the vehicle conversion. They will be along for the entire rally as service technicians when the teams from Mercedes-Benz battle their way across the Moroccan desert. Their nature and design mean that the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and Mercedes-Benz Vito as vans are not naturally classic rally vehicles. On board the service Sprinter: suspension parts, suspension arms, springs, wheel hubs, wheel bearings, axle shafts along with sensors for the Euro VI engines and the gearbox, fuel system, pumps, air filters, shock absorbers and 22 spare tires.
The team is perfectly prepared and optimistic: "Last year our ladies with the Sprinter won the rally and we technicians did not have much to do. The vehicles 'simply ran'. The new Mercedes-Benz Vito is new territory for us and in the desert. But I'm confidently looking forward to a lot of boredom as mechanic…“, says Sascha Belca, Mercedes-Benz Vans employee, with a grin.