The 4L Trophy: Man, Machine Desert

Renault 4 Rally to Marrakech

I once met a girl who convinced me that having lived in France, she knew for a fact that most young Frenchmen spend their weekend leisure time dancing in mirrored nightclubs so that they can check themselves out. For me this was the final straw, all I needed to write off an entire nation as self obsessed poseurs who for some reason had learnt dancing as well. It didn’t occur to me for a long time that maybe her town wasn’t a sound sample size for a country of 65 million people. Just maybe there were other types of French people. And just maybe dancing wasn’t that wrong.

Over the years as we’ve embraced Cantona and tried not to mention Dunkirk, The UK and France have grown closer and so my schoolboy understanding of our nearest neighbours has developed too. I love a baguette, I dig the vin rouge and Le Vache Qui Rit processed cheese triangles are simply the best in the business. So imagine my delight when I discovered exactly the reverse moment of men dancing to themselves in mirrors, the moment when I restored them in mind to people like me. Meet the 4L Trophy.

4L Trophy's History

This desert Rally began life in 1997 as the brainchild of one Jean Jacques Rey, who by the way, ever falls on hard times could easily play the young lead in a Terry Venables biopic. Anyway, after competing in the Paris Dakar he fell completely head over heels with rallying and went back to France and set up his company Desertours. It organised the first 4L Trophy that year and 3 teams took part, within 4 years 45 teams were competing and over 2,700 people get involved.

Race Rules

The aim of the game is simple; to get from either of the two start points on the Basque coast or Paris to a set finish location in Marrakesh, Morocco and they’re only allowed to complete this 6000km journey in a Renault 4. And all you get to take on the adventure is a teammate and a compass, there’s a strict ban on any gps equipment, so all navigation is completely back to basics through the desert. The winner is the team that takes the shortest route to the finish.

The Event's Legacy

However, it is much more than just a run to the sun, it’s the task of each team to raise as much money as they can to help educate and support children in Morocco and using the Rally to ship the aid down to where it’s needed. Last year over 82 tonnes of equipment were delivered to Marrakesh by the 4L Trophy.

This has understandably become one of the rights of passage of French students and a well kept secret amongst the entire country. Here’s to the French, to their spirit of adventure, to their mirror dancing and state of the art meat paste; I for one, love ‘em.