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4L Trophy for Raphaël

Published on

9 Jul 2024

Raphaël was supported by the Foundation to take part in the 4L Trophy 2024: a human adventure of solidarity from which he and his crew have grown, feeling fortunate and endowed with an incomparable openness to the world. He tells you about his experience in the Moroccan desert.

Why did you decide to take part in the 4L Trophy?

In February, I embarked on an epic journey with Luca, a long-standing friend, embarking on an extraordinary adventure across the Moroccan desert alongside 1,150 other crews, all driving our valiant Renault 4Ls. These icons of the road, first marketed in 1968, are renowned for their sturdiness and endurance through the ages. And yet, just like us, these 4Ls were unaware of the challenges awaiting them in the arid expanses of this unforgiving desert…

In addition to the sensations, the unforgettable encounters and the challenge of surpassing oneself that this journey implies, crews taking part in the Raid 4L Trophy are invited to support the work of Enfants du désert by sending material donations (school supplies and sports equipment) and by making a financial contribution to the school construction project. A way to leave an imprint of your adventure on the daily lives of desert schoolchildren.

Thanks to the trophists’ financial support for the association, 26 classrooms have been built, including a school for disabled children, and every year their material donations help to equip 20,000 children throughout the region. In these few paragraphs, I’m going to tell you all about our adventure in the 4L Trophy, one of France’s best-known charity rallies.

How did the rally go?

Raphaël Tinebra

Day 1 :

It all started in Biarritz, the rallying point where all the participants converged. Administrative formalities and technical checks were completed with precision. We were equipped with the trippy, our invaluable tool for geolocating ourselves in the desert and measuring our distances during orienteering events. Indeed, in this raid, it’s the one who covers the fewest kilometers who wins. Ready for battle, we set off for Algeciras, where 1150 crews were preparing to cross Gibraltar on the ferry.

We crossed Spain safely and arrived in Algeciras at night. It was time to get a few hours’ sleep before boarding the ferry. Waking up at 3 a.m., we made our way to Tangier’s ferry port in the early hours of the morning. It’s already the start of the surprises for us! The crew we’ve been mingling with ends up with a broken drive shaft! Fortunately, thanks in no small part to the Foundation’s financial support, we were able to bring along the essential spare mechanical parts, including a universal joint. No sooner had we arrived on the African continent than we got our hands dirty. 1h30 later, with a new drive shaft, we set off for Boulajoul… in last place!

Day 2:

Everyone’s goal for the day: to reach the Boulajoul bivouac on the Middle Atlas plateau. New ways of driving, magnificent new vistas, we were amazed by the landscapes that flashed before our eyes. They metamorphosed visibly as we descended to the south. Very little break for us, the aim being to arrive before dark.

Despite our best efforts, we arrived at Boulajoul in the moonlight, and it wasn’t until we woke up after a 5°C night that we discovered an exceptional panorama. Snow-covered hills and rocky massifs were enough to revitalize us despite the fatigue that was beginning to weigh on us. It’s now 6:30 a.m., the perfect time to reach Merzouga, the rally’s legendary venue, where two key stages of the adventure will take place. The sun was barely rising when the first 4Ls left the Boulajoul bivouac this morning. We had been looking forward to this departure, which marked the start of the stage to Merzouga and the first tracks in the Moroccan desert.

Day 3:

Our objective for the day was clear: to reach Merzouga. 295 kilometers of road, including 40 kilometers of track, for our greatest pleasure. A few hundred metres into the desert and we’re already unloading and towing 4Ls!

Indeed, the 4Ls, still loaded with donations and all our equipment for the next 10 days, are not the most spacious vehicles. Fortunately, once we arrived at the bivouac, members of the Enfants du Désert association were waiting with open arms to collect the supplies we had brought with us. School supplies, sports and medical equipment: once again this year, trophy-winners have shown great generosity. A gesture of solidarity that will help 20,000 children in the Drâa-Tafilalet region. Of course, none of this would have been possible without the help of the ISAE-SUPAERO Foundation and its donors, to whom we offer our warmest thanks.

Days 4 and 5 :

Tuesday and Wednesday were “ambassador days”, when we had the opportunity to offer activities to schoolchildren and share some great moments with the children of Ouled Youssef school. The school has benefited from numerous projects, including the construction of sanitary facilities, a classroom for the nursery school, and the drilling of a well.

Wednesday was our last day at the Merzouga bivouac, and our last day on the trail before the traditional marathon stage starting the following morning. So it was with a roadbook and a compass that we set off into the desert. These are indications of kilometers, natural visual landmarks, ruins or oases that should (theoretically) prevent us from getting lost. Fortunately, we often saw 4Ls in the distance on the desert plateau, confirming our direction. We thought we were Sébastien Loeb, until a big rock against the chassis protection plates brought us back to reality…

The motors really suffered from the heat, even with the backup fan we’d added to the original. The event put many 4Ls to the test, with power problems, engine overheating and even faulty steering columns… not to mention the dreaded sand blockages. Fortunately, solidarity between trophy hunters was very much in evidence, and we didn’t hesitate to help each other out when one of us got stuck. Everyone used their own technique, pushing the 4L back and forth, using grit removal plates or even digging directly into the sand… Fortunately, we all managed to get back to the bivouac in plenty of time to pamper our 4Ls and get them back in shape for the final stage that awaited us the very next day.

Days 6 and 7 :

Start of the last leg of the rally: the marathon. The 614.6-kilometre route, spread over Thursday and Friday, took us to Marrakech to conclude the rally.

That evening, we spent our last night in the bivouac, but it wasn’t our last night in a tent, as we camped in total autonomy on the marathon stage the following day.

The following day was extremely sporting for all the trophy winners. We had the whole day to validate eleven safety checkpoints, or around 180 kilometers. But beyond that, this was by far the most stressful stage for us. After only a few kilometers of desert to reach the entrance to the marathon, which closed in the early afternoon, we were forced to leave the main track for a few hundred meters. It was fatal for our titine. All of a sudden, at just 20 km/h, the chassis began to rub the ground and the car came to a halt. While we innocently thought we’d gotten stuck in the sand, we were surprised when we noticed the 45-degree angle the wheel made with the chassis. Lower ball joint broken. So here we are under the zenith, me running from 4L to 4L begging for a ball joint we didn’t have, and my teammate dismantling the 4L with the help of mechanics who had come to help. Two hours and many drops of sweat later, we managed to get our car back on wheels, and it was off again at full speed to catch up with the last participants. To our great delight, we managed to arrive in time for the start of the marathon, albeit with a small delay penalty that will cost us 300 places in the rankings.

Friday, February 23, 2024, 7:30 a.m.: the start of the final stretch for all the trophy winners. At the Tazarine checkpoint, 370.7 kilometers awaited us that morning. Although this stage did not count towards the final ranking, it had a very special flavour, as it took us to the Moulay El Hassan circuit in Marrakech, the final destination of the adventure. From 1pm onwards, one by one, the little cars filled the racetrack, to the applause of the crowd. Friends and family were on hand to welcome and congratulate their favourite crew at the finish line. It was an emotional moment, as evidenced by the honking of horns, laughter and tears. Once we had recovered our senses, we were able to collect our medal, return to our hotel and enjoy a delicious shower, enough to wash away the kilos of sand accumulated over the last few days. That evening, after 10 days of bivouac, we didn’t hesitate to go to bed.

What do you retain from this experience?

It was with immense pride that we, along with the other 1149 crews, attended the closing evening of the 4L Trophy 2024. Greeted by the applause of 300 members of the organization, we were able to attend the awards ceremony. The event was hosted by Géraldine Rey and JB Goupil, who thanked the trophy winners for their investment throughout the adventure, unveiling the following highlights the scale of the solidarity shown by the participants, who brought in nine tons of donations and foodstuffs, which will provide 15,000 meals for people in need. Laetitia Chevalier and Jéromine Lançon then took over to unveil the profits raised by the Enfants du Désert association. Afterwards, the inevitable podium was unveiled, with the prize-giving ceremony. Immediately afterwards, we were able to toast to this fine joint victory, which right up to its end honored its values of mutual aid and conviviality.

No, this is not the end of an adventure, but the beginning of a new one for us, as we come away from this experience grown up, fortunate and with an incomparable openness to the world. Like previous trophy winners, we can confirm that “you have to experience it to understand it”.

Any final words?

On behalf of the 1651 crew, we would like to express our sincere and heartfelt thanks to the ISAE-Supaero Foundation and to our donors for their invaluable support and generosity.

Your support has been an essential pillar of our success and our journey, and we are deeply grateful. Thanks to your sponsorship, we were able to enjoy an extraordinary and unforgettable experience through the majestic landscapes of Morocco, while contributing to essential humanitarian actions for children in the region. You’re shaping entire Moroccan villages with your subsidies.

Thanks to the ISAE-SUPAERO Foundation, we’ve been able to push back our limits, experience a wealth of emotions and encounters, while contributing to humanitarian actions that are making a difference in the lives of thousands of Moroccan children.

Once again, a huge thank you to the ISAE-SUPAERO Foundation for making all this possible and for being an indispensable partner in this extraordinary 4L Trophy adventure. Your support will remain engraved in our hearts and memories forever.

I want to support projects like Raphaël’s and the 4L Trophy.