When Hope and Crosby were on the road to Morocco seeking laughs and Dorothy Lamour, they rode on a camel. Nicole Pitell, the marketing director from Total Chaos Fabrication, will be doing it in this Toyota.
Pitell and her driving partner, Jessi Combs, will be competing in the Rallye Aicha des Gazelles, an all-female rally that takes place in southern Morocco. Begun in 1990 (making this the 25th running) by Dominique Serra and slated to run March 20-April 4, 2015, the Rallye Aicha des Gazelles, or Gazelles Rally as it’s known, is the largest all-female motorsports competition in the world. There will be 150 two-person teams representing 25 countries in the event, which sees everyone from professional drivers, to celebrities, to adventure seekers participating.
And an adventure it will be, teams will be driving through a variety of terrain, including the Sahara Desert with its massive sand dunes. The famed Erg Chebbi dunes (highest dunes in Morocco) and the iconic Chegaga dunes are just two of the remote areas where the teams will be put to the test.
Much like any race, there are many classes in which the competitors can enter. Vehicles ranging from 4WD, stock trucks and SUVs, crossovers, Dakar-worthy race buggies, to ATVs and dirt bikes are just some of the vehicles that will take part on this event.
What you won’t find, however, is any GPS units or electronic navigational aids for that matter. That’s right, the teams are given a map of the day’s route, and it’s up to the teams to find the checkpoints with a compass and skill alone.
The odd thing about this rally is that there is no set course that the teams have to follow. They do have to hit all the checkpoints, but for every kilometer the teams go over what the organizers determine to be the days “ideal distance,” they get a penalty. The overall winners will be determined by who has the shortest overall mileage during the course of the rally.
Of course, that means that the teams have to be there when the rally ends. Like the old saying goes, you can’t win if you don’t finish. That’s why Pitell and Combs have put their faith in this 2014 Toyota Tacoma 4WD double cab shortbed.
Toyota has a long history of competing in some of the most grueling of rallies and Pitell knows a lot about Toyotas. Pitell is the Marketing Director for Total Chaos Fabrication and Total Chaos builds some of the hottest Toyot-based off-road trucks on the dirt today. They built this one with Morocco in mind and what the truck needed to be to make it through the rally in one piece.
They began with adding one of their +2-inch Race Series long-travel frontend kits and modifying the Factory Toyota spindles with Total Chaos Weld-on Spindle Gussets to increase the strength. Working with King Shocks, they added a set of King 2.5 coilovers, equipped with King springs and a 2.5 external bypass shocks to each side.
The rear suspension has been changed from stock as well. It now features a Deaver/DMZ Fabrication Spring Under Axle Kit along with custom fabricated Total Chaos under the bed shock mounts. To those mounts, a set of King 2.5 external bypass shocks were mounted as well as a set of King air bumps. The brakes are the stock Toyota units.
Definitely not stock Toyota units are the wheels and tires. Pitell went with 16x8 FN Wheels Countersteer Type X wheels that have been shod with 315/75R16 Falken Wildpeak A/T tires. A few more will reside in the bed of the truck during the rally, just in case.
To make room for those larger wheels and tires, Pitell added some Glassworks Unlimited fiberglass front and rear panels to the factory steel cab and besides, along with set of custom TC fiberglass bumper pods. A Total Chaos front bumper with a hearty skidplate and XRC winch has been fitted while a TC custom rear bumper replaced the stock unit as well.
When all was ready, Callaway Collision of Wildomar, California, paint the truck a nice Toyota Magnetic Grey Metallic. Callaway will also be adding the race wrap when it’s time.
We know how dark it gets here in our own deserts, and we’re pretty sure it isn’t any lighter in Morocco, so a host of Baja Designs lights have been added. Up front you will find BD’s Squadron XL’s mounted on a Total Chaos Electric Actuator while the rear will have BD Squadron SII backup and dust lights.
And Pitell hopes that those dust lights will be all that the competitors see. To that end, she added a TRD Supercharger and injectors to the otherwise stock 4.0L engine, though a K&N air filter has also been fitted in place. The result is that the engine now produces a healthy 304 hp at 5,400 rpm. The drivetrain, too, is mostly stock, though an E-locker now resided inside the pumpkin.
Given that Pitell and Combs will be inside the Toyota for many days in a row, the interior has retained relatively stock, with the only additions being a TRD floor shifter and a Kenwood Race Radio. Another nod to creature comforts is that an onboard shower system is fed with a TC custom 16-gallon aluminum water tank.
In just six short months, Total Chaos Fabrication has turned the already off-road-worthy ’14 Toyota Tacoma 4WD double cab shortbed into one that Pitell hopes will take her and Combs the distance across the Moroccan desert. The event is both a test of the vehicle, the team’s ability to navigate where there are few landmarks and even fewer margins for error.
And as if the fun of competing in the Gazelles Rally itself isn’t enough, it is all for a good cause. The Gazelles Rally is known and respected for its nonprofit organization, Heart of Gazelles. Through broad-reaching humanitarian efforts, the Heart of Gazelles brings aid to the region through extensive medical aid, support to orphanages and schools, sustainable development for villages, and job development for women.
For those who want to follow Pitell and Combs as they tackle Morocco, you can do so by checking out the Total Chaos Facebook page, and we’ll be sharing what they post to our own Dirt Sports + Off-Road Facebook page, so look there too.
Wheelbase: 126 inches
Track Width: 82 inches
Horsepower: 304 hp at 5,400 rpm
Induction: TRD Supercharger
Air Filter: K&N
Front Suspension: Total Chaos +2 Extended Race Series Bolt-On Long-Travel kit
Rear Suspension: DMZ Rear Leaf Spring Conversion with Total Chaos Custom Fabricated Rear Shock Mount System
Front: King 2.5 Coilover with King Springs, King 2.5 External Bypass
Rear: King 2.5 External Bypass and King Air Bumps
Wheels: 16x8 FN Wheels Countersteer Type X
Tires: 315/75R16 Falken Wildpeak A/T
Bodywork: Glassworks Unlimited
Paint/Graphics: Callaway Collision
Manufacturer: Baja Designs
Front: Squadron XL’s on Total Chaos Electric Actuator
Rear: Squadron SII Backup and Dust Lights
Steering Wheel: Toyota
Radio/Intercom: Kenwood Race Radio