By Sue Mead:
It’s the longest competitive off-road rally in America and the only all-female event of its kind in the U.S. The Rebelle Rally has gained fanfare with both experienced and ‘newbie’ competitors, and this year has attracted 36 teams and nine automakers to the 5th-annual event. Classes include Crossover and 4×4. Ford is fielding three teams that will be competing in 2021 Bronco Sport models!
Not only is this the first time that Ford has entered the off-road, navigation-based rally, but it is also the first time that a manufacturer has sponsored three vehicles. “The Rebelle Rally is a great match for Bronco Sport – with proven high-speed, off-road capability and best-in-class features to enable our teams to have the adventure of a lifetime,” enthused Adrian Aguirre, Bronco Sport Project Manager. “Bronco Sport is designed for just that – to enable adventures in the outdoors and nothing says adventure more strongly than a rally raid event. You are heading out with nothing but instructions on how to get to that next waypoint, your thirst for overcoming challenges, and confidence that your equipment is up to the task of getting you there.”
Each team will drive a stock Bronco Sport Badlands 4 x 4 model as entries in the crossover competition. Teams of two – a driver and navigator – relinquish their cell phones and all GPS and Internet-enabled devices and rely on old-world navigation to find their way to checkpoints of varying degrees of difficulty using only a compass, maps, and roadbooks. The rally is not a race for speed, but rather, awards precision driving and navigating and travels through designated open off-highway vehicle areas across Nevada and California. The rally is guided by Tread Lightly! motoring and backcountry principals.
“This event puts a premium on precise navigation, and makes the race one where mental toughness and alertness will be key. Over the course of long days off-road, having a vehicle that can handle the terrain effortlessly and with more composure than the rest will pay dividends in saving energy and keeping the teams focused on driving and navigating with precision,” added the global chief program engineer. “With Bronco Sport’s twin-mechanical rear-drive unit (RDU), we are able to tailor the vehicle’s behavior to different off-road conditions. This makes driving off-road easier and safer, and for the Rebelle Rally, ultimately faster as a result. By using the GOAT modes the driver will be able to select the appropriate drive mode and have the RDU adjust its behavior to match the terrain.”
Six women will represent Ford at the Rebelle; two are Ford employees with no previous off-road experience, however, they are passionate Bronco Sport enthusiasts and have worked on the Bronco Sport team. Jovina Young, Bronco Sport Brand Manager, will share driving and navigation duties with Erica Martin, Ford’s Marketing Comms Manager for SUVs. Well-known 4WD racer Shelby Hall, who was on the Bronco R race team for the 2019 Baja 1000, will partner with highly-regarded navigator Penny Dale; Hall has participated in the rally once and Penny is back for her fourth event. Elana Scherr of Car and Driver Magazine, and experienced off-roader Betsy Anderson, will co-pilot the third team. They are new to the rally; however, each has experience in off-road racing.
The 2020 Rebelle Rally runs Oct. 8th-17th and travels along nearly 2,500 kilometers of spectacular backcountry on a mix of dirt roads, off-road trails, and desert sand dunes from the shores of Lake Tahoe, in Nevada, to southern California. Of note, Ford tested the unibody Bronco Sport in Johnson Valley, California, one of the deserts that the rally will travel through; engineers put the Bronco Sport through extreme testing and durability routes in the desert, alongside of the bigger Bronco and found the Bronco Sport exceeded expectations, with its all-wheel drive, 18:1 crawl ratio, and low-speed modes that are engineered to handle a variety of terrain.
“The fact is we designed the Rebelle Rally to specifically be a proving platform for manufacturer vehicles – the ones in your driveway”, said Rebelle Rally founder, Emily Miller. “And it’s meant for them to shine. That is the Rebelle by design. It’s not a gimmick event – it’s built for them and for the women who use their products. Their safety and performance depend on great products, and this is the place to showcase it. We are very grateful for such strong participation this year.”
Stay tuned for more coverage of the event from Bronco Nation and background on the individuals competing on the three Bronco Sport teams!
**The Rebelle Rally begins Oct. 7th, with Tech Inspection and Prologue Days at the start. To follow along, viewers can watch the live webcast at www.rebellerally.com October 8-17, 2020.
Sue Mead is an automotive journalist and a member of the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame. She has been a professional off-roader for 30+ years, including involvement in racing and expeditions around the globe.