Official Website - Raid 4L Trophy

The Raid 4L Trophy

In the opinion of those who’ve taken part in the adventure, the 4L TROPHY™ Rally isn’t something to be talked about: you have to experience it first-hand.  Over the course of ten days, time stands still and you forget your “other life.”  Against a backdrop of sumptuous landscapes, you keep moving forward, everyone supporting one another, meeting new people, discussing and exchanging ideas – and the result is that competitors finish the trip with a new outlook on life.

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An educational adventure

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Views from the teams

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Désertours: the organiser

Désertours, organisateur du Raid 4L Trophy

Désertours has been the leading French provider of rally adventures for 30 years, and specialises in organising adventure trips and events of this kind.  It is based in Ciboure, in the south-west of the country, and since its establishment in 1985, it has been led by the racing driver and motorbike racer, Jean-Jacques Rey.  “The 22th 4L Trophy™ Rally will take place against the magnificent backdrop of Morocco’s Deep South.  The rally is organised in the purest tradition of African endurance rallies such as Paris-Dakar.  The goal is to cover each day’s rally stage using a road book, a map and a compass, while achieving each checkpoint along the way.  Speed is simply not a consideration.  The ranking is based on the number of kilometres travelled (so that the fewest kilometres means the best navigation), and a number of different tests such as the ability to cross sandy terrain.”

Jean-Jacques Rey, Chief executive of Désertours.

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A support team of over 250 people, bolstered by years of experience, ensures that competitors receive optimal levels of support throughout.  From the organiser, Désertours, to its teams of doctors, mechanics and logistics personnel and the ‘4L Trophy Coordination’ Association, based at ESC Rennes School of Business, everyone is totally committed, with the same major priority: the safety of the crews.

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Rennes School of Business

“Rennes School of Business has been involved with the 4L Trophy™ Rally and supported it for years.  It wouldn’t do so if the event didn’t align perfectly with our school’s values, and we share an international approach that focuses on encouraging diversity and innovation on the part of the students.

This project resonates with our values and meets our educational goals: by organising this amazing expedition, the students encounter different cultures, manage a project on a substantial scale and develop their sense of responsibility.  Finally, it reveals a different aspect to the top management schools thanks to its resolute focus on benefiting the local community.”

Olivier Aptel, Dean of Rennes School of Business.

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The 4L Trophy Coordination Association

4L coordination - Raid 4L Trophy

“4L Trophy Coordination works like a genuine small business of 40 students who spend a year working to implement the event.  The team is organised into four departments (Crew Relations, Departure Village, Partnerships, and Marketing and Communications), and the association is now a major fixture on the French student scene.

The strength of the 4L Trophy™ Rally comes from its originality: an event organised by students and desert professionals, during which universities, businesses and adventure lovers can come together around a common set of values: team spirit, friendship, solidarity, support and person and the desire to set new standards.”

The 4L Trophy Coordination Team

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Support, safety, and security during the Rally

L'organisation du Raid 4L Trophy

In order to ensure the safety and security of competitors, the 4L Trophy™ is organised and supported by 250 professionals, all of whom are in contact via VHF radio, mobile phones and satellite phones in order to communicate without wasting any time.

The organisation is divided into several key areas:


Rally management

  • Event managers;
  • Approximately 30 rally marshals;
  • Three IT engineers to manage the arrival and departure times with a number of logistics specialists and marshals to ensure that departures and arrivals are correctly managed;
  • Course HQ to manage the movements of vehicles on the trails;
  • A lead vehicle;
  • 50 4×4s on the trails (to transport doctors, mechanics, etc.)
  • Broom wagons (to “sweep up” any stranded competitors).


Safety and security for competitors

  • A 24-hour emergency number is issued to all crews at the Departure Village;
  • A 24-hour emergency medical number;
  • A full medical assistance team, consisting of doctors, emergency specialists, surgeons and nurses;
  • 12 rescue workers from the French Red Cross are in attendance at the bivouac, 24 hours per day, alongside a medical monitoring team;
  • Mutuaide Assistance also has a team on site;
  • A helicopter for rapid interventions;
  • The Moroccan Police and the Royal Moroccan Gendarmerie have been involved for 15 years at all times when the Rally has been on Moroccan territory.


The Bivouac:

  • A team to ensure the crews’ safety and security, 24 hours per day;
  • Course HQ;
  • An additional team of 120 Moroccan nationals who assemble and dismantle the bivouacs, provide meals, etc.
  • A medical area with doctors, Red Cross personnel and firefighters;
  • A mechanical area with two workshop trucks, three workshop vans, and more than 50 “Bivouac mechanics” who work day and night;
  • A number of logistics specialists and marshals who work to ensure that departures and arrivals, and distribution of water, etc., are properly managed;
  • An osteopathic area to ensure the crews’ well-being;
  • A reception and information tent, available to all competitors.
  • A giant screen for briefings and daily video reviews;
  • A tanker truck to refill the 4Ls with petrol;
  • Showers and toilets available at the Bivouac;
  • A “bin wagon” and five employees of the Pizzorno company who clean the Bivouac daily;
  • Over 50 workers, provided by Pizzorno, who ensure that the Bivouac is cleaned up after each departure.


Mechanical support:

  • Mechanical support at the bivouac, consisting of five trucks and vans kitted out as mobile workshops, allocated to different categories such as welding, general mechanics, and bodywork;
  • Over 50 mechanics at the Bivouac who work day and night;
  • Over 30 roaming mechanics in 4×4s who cover the trails and roads;
  • 4×4s equipped as breakdown and recovery vehicles;
  • Mechanical HQ open every day of the rally to support the crews.
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The Raid 4L Trophy?

First, some facts and figures. For the 21th Raid 4L Trophy last year, 2,600 participants from over 1,460 colleges, divided into 1,300 teams, started from the Departure Village of Biarritz, aboard their legendary Renault 4L. Their goal is to reach their final destination, Marrakesh, after completing a 10-day journey of almost 6,000 km on French and Spanish roads and Moroccan tracks. This unique combination makes the Raid 4L Trophy the biggest rally for students in Europe.

But enough with the statistics. Most of all, the Raid 4L Trophy is a fulfilling and solidary sports adventure for students between 18 and 28 years old. Unlike most rallies, the competition is based on orientation, not speed. The challenge lies in making it to the finish line and in order to get there, participants will discover the true meaning of helping each other: to avoid treacherous wadis and getting stuck in the sand; or to help other contestants who suffered mechancical problems. In helping each other, the competitors will find satisfaction of their achievement and be proud of having done their best for themselves and their fellow contestants.

In addition to their desire for vast open spaces, the teams transport classroom materials in their 4Ls to donate to deprived children in Morocco. To the 4L Trophy, solidarity towards local inhabitants is not an empty phrase; as a matter of fact it is deeply ingrained in the rally’s DNA. Each year this becomes evident during the ceremony in which they hand over the donations in partnership with Enfants du désert . Many participants claim that moment is one of the highlights of the adventure.

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The spirit of the 4L

saut 4L

They are a group of perhaps ten people, sitting around a campfire in the middle of the desert beneath a dark sky filled with stars.  Guitar chords accompany the dance of the flames.  The atmosphere builds confidence, and the competitors tell stories of their cars, the rally, the beauty of the landscapes they’ve crossed, and a little bit more as well.  After a week spent rallying, they have so many memories already.  Tonight will be their last night in the open air.  It’s the famous “marathon stage” – a long, two-day trip, travelling independently for the ultimate challenge of their adventure.  Soon, it will be time to go home and get back to the reality of their “other lives.”  However, the “spirit of the 4L” will leave its mark on that reality for a long time afterwards.  Competitors often struggle to express in words the magic of the 4L Trophy™ Rally. Instead, they prefer to extend an invitation: “You have to experience it for yourself.”


A humanitarian and sporting adventure, in complete safety

Without continuous respect for the safety and security rules that the course director, Jean-Jacques Rey, reiterates at every briefing, there can be no pleasure in the 4L Trophy™ Rally.  These rules are vital to ensure that all competitors can reach the next bivouac with the greatest amount of freedom.  During the rally, there is therefore never any question of speed: instead, it is all about orientation and navigation.  The “trophyist’s” greatest weapons: a map, a compass and an effective reading of the road book provided to each crew at the Departure Village.  The best crews will be those who follow the instructions given in the famous road book most closely and complete the stage with the fewest kilometres on the clock.

In addition to the navigational traps come those of the Moroccan desert.  When crossing the sandy terrain, competitors will need to rely on their fellow competitors to free them if they get stuck in the sand.  When this happens, it’s always a case of “all hands on deck” to help a crew that’s “tanked” on the dunes, and an opportunity for everyone to learn to push their boundaries, and to keep going in the face of any obstacle.  As a result, competitors will take home a new outlook on life, the importance of which cannot be overstated, and which few other experiences can provide.


A charitable, eco-friendly event

The 4L Trophy™ Charitable Rally firstly provides support to the French population via the “4L Solidarity” Charitable Association.  Since the 2011 rally, each team has been requested to bring 10 kg of non-perishable staple goods to the Departure Village, after which the goods that are collected are handed over to the Red Cross and to food banks.  The charitable aspect of the rally continues with the delivery of school supplies to Moroccan children, in partnership with the “Enfants du désert” (“Children of the Desert”) charity.  Fundraising activities are also organised, which enabled classrooms and schools to be built in the desert following the 2012 and 2013 rallies.

Respect for the environment is also at the heart of the rally’s concerns.  Many activities are therefore undertaken each year in order to reduce the rally’s environmental impact, and the “Clean Desert” operation ensures that the desert is meticulously cleaned up each time the bivouac moves on.

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Un long chemin à parcourir - Raid 4L Trophy

4L Trophy™ Rally – 21 years old already!

In winter 1996, Jean-Jacques Rey and a few friends from the Paris-Dakar Rally were in Mali to map out new routes towards the Senegalese capital.

It is a well-known fact that, when friends who share a single passion meet up, they will start to put the world to rights, especially when they share a passion for adventure and for Africa.

At a bivouac in the Sahel, during the inevitable aperitif around the campfire that Jean-Jacques casually stated that “I’d have loved to have been able to do this when I was 20: exploring the desert and experiencing such an amazing adventure.”  But at the time, none of us could have afforded to buy a 4×4.

Everything seemed to be out of reach and nothing more than a dream.  After dinner, the discussion at the campsite continued.

Some people suggested that “you could do it with normal cars.”  “Why not?” exclaimed Jean-Jacques.  “You’d just have to find a cheap car that was reliable enough to travel over the desert trails.”  The result: the simple idea had begun to take its course.

Upon his return to France, Jean-Jacques, as part of his working life, organising trips by 4×4 and off-road motorbikes, decided to return to Morocco in a Renault 4L to examine the feasibility of an adventure endurance rally in the country.

The route was designed and… it worked!  Mamy, the Renault 4L, could go everywhere, even over sandy terrain!  The 4L Trophy™ Rally was born! Désertours set up communications with students to try to pass on the message – which was easier said than done.

In late February 1998, three crews showed up at the start, unsure of whether they would get any further.

Go or no-go?  The question was asked, but Jean-Jacques decided to set off regardless, with the support of his 4×4, a logistics technician, a mechanic, a doctor and of course, himself.

Désertours’ staff did wonder whether the boss had lost his marbles, and although the answer appears obvious today, it took several years and the help of students at ESC Rennes Business School, from 2001 onwards, for the adventure to reach its current scale.

In the 4th Rally, in 2001, 50 cars set off, growing to 460 by 2005 and 1,000 cars in 2008 and today, the 4L Trophy™ Rally has earned its reputation for excellence.

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In their own words

Les étudiants témoignes - rallye raid 4L Trophy

Here are some messages left on Facebook (in French, and in a style designed for Facebook, of course):

Florent Rahyr, talking about the 4L Trophy™ album:

“When I think back to the mornings, my head pressed down in the bottom of my sleeping bag, my co-driver opening the tent, a little breath of air entering the tent and then, in the distance, the noise of two car doors closing, the roar of an engine, the wail of the siren… 4L TROPHYPHYPHY… You get up, rub your eyes, swear a bit like “Shit, it’s all falling apart,” then you’ve got the little melody that starts to kick in at 1’38, with a bit of an echo fade and then you realise “Shit, I’m in the middle of nowhere, just me and my 2,500 mates, and my 4l!”  A sunset behind the dunes or the mountains, a camel who’s smiling at you (?!?!) two metres from the tent… and then you’re so happy to be alive and to be able to enjoy little moments like that.  A massive smile makes you look like you can’t believe it’s possible but fuck you love it so much!  Breakfast, then you go over the night before, a bit of mandatory cleaning (teeth, air filter), put the key in the ignition, and you love it even more!  A little nostalgic gift for some of you, a bit of a preview for others, anyway CRAPPY HISTMAS TO YOU ALL!!!”


Wesley Devaraine

“The 4L Trophy 2010 was just magic!!!  I think I’ve still got PTSD from coming back, didn’t want to go back to uni it’s a nightmare!!!!  I miss the 4L Trophy so much, I think I’m going to stop washing and go play in my little brother’s sandbox just to make me feel a bit better!!!! Anyway for 2011… no matter what, sign up now because it’s just a unique experience!!
xoxo ==> crew 1339”


Meulder Thomas Belgian crew 647:

Warm thanks to all the crews for the atmosphere and the campfire and the support that we all felt for one another.  An unforgettable adventure that will survive through the struggles of everyday reality…


Céline Decarroz

It kicks ass!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 4L Trophyphyphyphyphy
Long live the caring and sharing, that’s what I say


Xavier Roland

“Thank you everyone: the people that we got to know, those that we met briefly, those who gave us a hand (sometimes so important that we didn’t have time to say thank you properly!!) and those who just listened… in short, thank you everyone for this amazing experience!!


Teresita Tredez

4L Trophy, what will change your life wholeheartedly with all the guys who go to Marrakesh.


Julien Nrmd

The return to reality is just so hard after an adventure like that!! Once again, thank you to everyone for the amazing generosity and support!  Definitely THE best experience of my life.


And even more on Facebook: Raid 4L Trophy!

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The story 4L Trophy™, as told by the crew

(Copy of an e-mail sent by crew 581 from the 18th Rally, on 15 March 2015)

First of all, thank you for allowing around 2,500 students to experience an exceptional adventure this year.  We had been looking forward to taking part for several years and now: mission accomplished – we can say that we are trophyists!  We’ve gone through some unforgettable moments – what amazing memories!

  • Going from the snow in Boulajoul to the fine sand in Merzouga
  • Seeing the sun set over the Moroccan dunes
  • Picnicking on the shores of Lake Errachidia
  • Seeing the Moroccan children smile when we handed over the donations
  • Meeting Berbers in the middle of nowhere
  • The night in the desert around the campfire beneath the starry sky
  • And the other trophyists: all those moments we shared with them that we’ll never forget.

In summary, Trophyists will all tell you that the 4L isn’t something you can appreciate from talking about it: you have to experience it for yourself.


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Why you should suggest this project to your students

Since its inception in 1997, 20,000 students have embarked on an adventure thanks to the 4L Trophy™ Rally, and ever-increasing numbers want to join the community of “trophyists.”  When asked about their motivation, themes such as adventure, personal challenge, doing something good for the community, a sense of personal freedom, and discovering new cultures are some of the key aspects that encourage participants to embark on the adventure.  However, the 4L Trophy™ Rally is also a wonderful project with effects that last a lifetime, with real-world encounters with the professional world.  It therefore represents a real opportunity to implement educational projects with a direct link to this sporting and humanitarian endurance rally that takes place on Moroccan trails.  The 4L Trophy™ course is all about strategy and this allows competitors to highlight qualities that are highly valued by the world of work, such as bravery and determination.  This extremely fulfilling experience enables participants to appreciate the qualities of a dynamic project that is organised and planned over the course of several months.

The 4L Trophy™ Rally is therefore an excellent learning exercise to present to your students.  In their search for sponsors, they must show a partnership dossier and present it to a variety of businesses, encountering the challenges of approaching potential customers on the way.  The crews must also set a provisional budget and carry out the various administrative steps that are required to allow them to take part.  This project therefore fits perfectly into an educational programme or into tutor-supervised projects.  It generates real added value to a CV because it demonstrates concrete experience of managing a project.

During the 4L Trophy™, the overriding priority is navigation: for the crews, this means demonstrating clear thinking skills and intelligence in order to complete the various stages with a road book, a map, and a compass as their only tools.

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The 4L Trophy™ Rally: lessons for life

Over and above the intensive preparation that it requires, the highlight of the 4L Trophy™ Rally remains the adventure that it offers!  The starting line represents the fulfilment of a dream for the competitors as, over the course of ten days, 2,900 students come together to experience an exceptional adventure.  Sharing and teamwork are the key to success in the challenge, because the crews depend on each other’s support and learning to work together in order to cross the finish line successfully!

The 4L Trophy™ Rally is also a voyage of personal discovery for the students as well as an opportunity to meet with local populations.  In fact, during the preparatory stages, each crew collects school supplies to be delivered to the children of southern Morocco.  When the donations are handed over, the participants provide their supplies directly to the Enfants du désert charity and meet children who benefit from the donations.  This moment during the rally is a unique, emotionally charged event that remains firmly engraved in the memory of each participant.  The values of the 4L Trophy™ – Action, Sharing and Solidarity – are expressed at every single moment of the adventure.  The Rally leaves its mark on the participants and their character, thanks to the development of a truly independent spirit. More than a simple, straightforward race, the 4L Trophy™ represents a new stage in their lives.  It fosters an open-minded, self-sufficient attitude that is vital to their working lives: in short, a personal strength that all participants can highlight on their CVs.  Taking part in the 4L Trophy™ Rally provides added value that testifies to the commitment shown by all crews over the course almost a year.

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A project to build skills and character

In addition to its adventurous aspect, the 4L Trophy™ Rally is first and foremost a project that takes shape throughout the year.  In effect, competing in the rally represents an ambitious project that develops skills and character for all those students who choose to set off on the adventure of a lifetime.

Preparing for the rally represents a real opportunity in itself, because it requires genuine project management skills, enabling students to take a professional approach to their adventure and thus add value to their experience.

Everything starts with the administrative management of the project: setting up an association marks an important milestone, with the goal of creating a formal, legitimate context for their various activities.  They are therefore required to find a name for the association and set up its articles of association to be communicated to the local authorities at the préfecture. Once this stage is completed, a bank account can be opened, allowing them to approach their future sponsors.

Moreover, preparing a budget is a vital stage, without which it’s not possible to take part in the rally.  It includes a number of different categories, including the purchase of the vehicle, any repairs needed, insurance, communications, and funds to cover the expenses of the rally.  In effect, the crews are required to manage their budget from day-to-day in order to run their affairs and their accounts carefully, because while the rally is all about preparation, budgeting is the foundation of that.

Trophy competitors therefore set out a budget that is used as a reference in their fundraising activities.  They are therefore required to put together a partnership portfolio to present their project and to convince businesses to support them in their adventure.  Accordingly, the students canvass businesses and advocate for their commercial strategy.  This requires them to set up appointments, negotiate and deal directly with the professional world – all of which provide valuable educational experiences.

The business aspect is therefore present throughout the preparations for the event.

Nevertheless, other aspects are important, and also provide valuable skills, such as public relations.  The ability to communicate effectively is both a personal strength and a professional challenge, vital to maintain an effective profile – which applies both to the crews, with the creation of their visual identity, and to their partners.  It is therefore important to create effective communications materials, and a key aspect of this is the management of social media.  In terms of communications, the teams can also prepare a press pack in order to raise awareness with as many people as possible.

Events may also be organised from time to time, both in order to raise the crew’s profile and for fundraising purposes, and by doing this, the crews follow a project management process that focuses on the event in question.

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