Here's Why You Should Bring Your Mom Off-Road Racing

(Image: Rallye Aicha des Gazelles)

Moms! What would we do without them? Not exist, obviously. We all owe our mothers a lot but maybe not as much as the Hoehn sisters, who took their mom’s car apart in the African desert.

Let’s back up; sisters Jo Hannah and Susanah Hoehn were racing against their mother Karen and teammate Maureen Gibbons in the 2016 Rallye Aicha des Gazelles.


This event, also known as “the Gazelle rally,” is an off-road race that goes down in Morocco every year but it’s unique in more ways than one.

Only women are allowed to compete, and no navigation technology is allowed beyond a compass and an archaic printed map. The “race” is judged by who can get from Point A to Point B in the shortest distance, not necessarily the shortest time.

The whole thing takes more than a week and spans about 650 miles.

“GPS” (Image: Rallye Aicha des Gazelles)

Competitors have no idea what’s between each day’s start and where they’re supposed to end up, other than “treacherous African desert.” The distance-basis keeps the focus on technical off-roading and creative problem solving rather than just matting it and powersliding around corners for a couple hundred miles.

This year it was held from March 23rd to April 2nd, with America represented by eight teams in a mix of Jeeps, Land Rovers and one Toyota (the latter of which, ahem, did the best.)


The Hoehn sisters ran the race in a Land Rover LR4, as did their mother and Ms. Gibbons.

Both trucks were going great until they weren’t; Jo Hannah and Susanah’s air suspension failed seven days into the race.

What a wrap job! (Image: Rallye Aicha des Gazelles)

Way too far from a Land Rover dealership to make a warranty claim, the Hoehn sisters were straight out of luck until Ms. Hoehn and Ms. Gibbons came up on them in their own, still operational, LR4 and sacrificed the rest of their own race to get the sisters going again.


“It was absolutely the only decision,” said Gibbons. “Any kind of ambivalence in life is hard. Definition makes everything clearer. As soon as we saw what happened, we were like: Can they take our car?”

Mechanics swapped the shocks and the Hoehn sisters went on to finish third overall in the race’s 4x4 class.

The Hoehn sisters with their mom Karen (Image: Rallye Aicha des Gazelles)

“Leaving our mom behind was really hard,” Jo Hannah Hoehn said at the finish. “Our mom has given us so much our entire life,” said Jo Hannah Hoehn. “I thought that this event would finally be about her, and the event ended up being about us. The good part is that she doesn’t seem to mind. She was so excited the car got fixed, and we got out on the course.”


Karen Hoehn and Maureen Gibbons were running the Gazelle Rally for the first time this year, and put on a hell of a clinic on how to be classy competitors and eventually did get their own Rover up and running again to finish 110th.

Karen Hoehn and Maureen Gibbons, who will hopefully return to Gazelle again! (Image: Rallye Aicha des Gazelles)

162 teams competed in this year’s race all-up, 135 of which were in the 4x4 class with the Hoehn Land Rovers.

So be cool to your parents, boys and girls. You never know when you’ll need to steal their suspension to finish a race!


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Andrew P. Collins

Reviews Editor, Jalopnik | 1975 International Scout, 1984 Nissan 300ZX, 1991 Suzuki GSXR, 1998 Mitsubishi Montero, 2005 Acura TL