In February, we followed Clément, a consultant of our Engineering division, for a week during the 4L Trophy 2020.
ALTEN Belgium was his sponsor for the second year running, not only since Clément is a highly esteemed colleague but also because the race combines technology and humanitarian aid. Today he tells us about his adventure which has been going on for 10 years now!
From participant to “Mike”
Clément was as in high school when he threw himself into the 4L Trophy adventure 10 years ago. The 4L Trophy is an orienteering race aboard a Renault 4L for twelve days of immersion in Morocco. The rally can only be joined by students with Renault 4 cars. Its objective is to provide children with school supplies. The participants carry out a committed mission with the association Enfants du Désert and the French Red Cross.
Before joining an engineering school, he was studying mechanics and more specifically vehicle maintenance. For three years Clément and a friend formed a crew until the raid’s backstage piqued his curiosity. “I was tempted to go back, but this time I wanted to do it on the organisation side because I could see that it was a completely different adventure. Imagine, you have between 1,300 and 1,400 cars! It was impressive to see the number of breakdowns, people stuck on the side of the road for hours and hours… It was something that hooked me right away”.
“Being part of the 4L Trophy organisation is not the same adventure as being a participant, it’s even different”. Clément explains to us what a huge organisation it is, with more than 250 people in the field to ensure that the trip is carried out: medical team, mechanics, logistics, etc. Clément is a member of the mechanical team, also known as the “Mikes”, with his father who comes every year! Aboard their 4×4, Clément and his father accompany each 4L that gets into trouble.
“The head in the mechanics all day long”
“We are the first to leave and the last to return in the evening. We don’t sleep a lot. In general, when we finish the day on the tracks, there is a second day that starts on the bivouac: that’s where the mechanical PC is installed to do the repairs. There are so many people, that the teams work until 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning, or sometimes don’t sleep at all! So, we usually help out.
We don’t go there to sleep, we know that! But it’s mentally restful. You don’t think about your work and focus on what you’re doing, it’s a big cut. And it’s a great adventure because on top of that you meet a lot of people. Often when you meet them, they are in a mess, some of them are waiting for you for hours, so they are happy to see you. Today the cars are tracked by GPS, it’s easier but there are so many breakdowns that you know you can’t be everywhere.”
Solidarity above all
Clément in the field is equipped with a whole list of tools and parts to repair cars. But he tells us that he doesn’t give these parts so easily. “The goal for the participants is to look for the parts by relying on the solidarity of the other crews. Each crew has its own slate, where they can mark their need and then asks the cars that pass by. Imagine, you have more than 1,300 cars going by, there are people going by all the time. Then people will get it, will stop, sometimes it’s not the right part, they leave but that’s what we call mutual aid. The goal is to move forward together. Obviously when a 4L is stuck alone, we give them what they need. »
An enriching experience
“My current project at ALTEN Belgium only involves IT, whereas at the 4L Trophy there is no IT at all. On the other hand, it is very practical and technical to know how certain engine parts work in my job. Few people have as much knowledge of the technical part, which is on the computer, as of the mechanical part. And that’s enriching!”
Clément is going back next year with, this time, his own 4×4 that he is currently building. We will meet you again in March 2021 to follow a new edition of the 4L Trophy! We look forward to hear from you!