By Sue Mead:
Ford has tapped six women to showcase the 2021 Bronco Sport Badland 4×4 in the 5th-annual Rebelle Rally. The longest competitive off-road rally in the U.S is also the only all-female event of its kind in America. Both experienced off-roaders and ‘newbies’ are welcomed to the driving and navigation rally that provides training and support in the months and weeks prior to the event; there is also a required “prologue” day that allows participants to practice before the rally formally begins.
The 2020 Rebelle Rally has attracted 36 teams and nine automakers; classes include Crossover and 4 x 4. Teams have ranged in age from 22 to 72 years old and have included mothers, lawyers and women from many walks of life; they have represented 188 cities, 38 states and provinces, and eight countries since the rally’s inception.
Ford’s debut at the rally makes history as the first automaker to bring three manufacturer-supported teams. Each team will drive a stock Bronco Sport Badlands model in the crossover competition. Teams of two – a driver and navigator – turn in their cell phones and all GPS and Internet-enabled devices and use on old-world navigation to locate checkpoints of varying degrees of difficulty using only a compass, maps, and roadbooks. Not a race for speed, rally competitors garner points for precise driving and navigating. The event travels through designated open off-highway vehicle areas across Nevada and California and adhere to Tread Lightly! principals.
Ford calls Team 1 “Our seasoned off-road veteran team”, with Shelby Hall and Penny Dale as its co-pilots; Team 2 “Our novices, directly from the Bronco Brand team”, fielding Ford employees Jovina Young and Erica Martin; and Team 3: “Our off-road enthusiast duo with Baja experience”, with Elana Scherr and Betsy Anderson sharing duties.
This year marks Shelby Hall’s second participation; she is the granddaughter of famed off-road racer Rod Hall. “I competed in the inaugural 2016 Rebelle Rally in a Jeep. Now, I am so excited to take on a whole new challenge. I competed 4 years ago, but I can only imagine how much the rally has changed. During the first year I competed, I was just trying to get my bearings, while now that I have a better sense, I am ready to be 100-percent competitive. I am so stoked to be in a Bronco Sport, showcasing what a versatile and capable vehicle this is! I can’t wait to test out the different off-road modes, like the G.O.A.T. mode– this new, sophisticated off-road system will be a blast to put the test!”
Hall’s teammate, Penny Dale, is a Registered Interior Designer in Vancouver, BC, Canada with her own studio specializing in residential and commercial interiors, as well as a board member for the Community Living Society, a non-profit that supports people with developmental disabilities or acquired brain injuries to live meaningful lives. The outdoor enthusiast claims her internal motto as “life is for living”! The third-time Rebelle competitor spent a year driving from Canada to Patagonia before her first rally in 2017 and “experienced first-hand how fundamental the skills of off road, precision driving and navigation are. I couldn’t be more excited to compete with Shelby in the Bronco Sport and after so much time self-isolating this year, it will make reconnecting with the other Rebelles even more special. The terrain response system (GOAT mode) is what I’m most excited to experience. I’m familiar with other systems and can’t wait to see how this system responds and how the vehicle behaves over so many different types of terrain.”
Jovina Young started her career as a marketing strategist at a Ford Motor Company ad agency working mainly on the F-Series line up of trucks and then earned an MBA from the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. “After other work, I was fortunate to land the role as Brand Manager of Bronco Sport,” said Young who will share driving and navigation duties with Erica Martin. “I want to ensure I can authentically speak to my products. Bronco Sport was made for this type of activity! I can’t wait to use the G.O.A.T. Modes, trail control, and locking the rear diff. I didn’t know what these were a year ago, and now, I get to showcase them in the rally! I feel really honored that I get to do that, plus I love that the Rebelle is an all-women’s rally.”
Erica Martin, Ford’s Marketing Comms Manager for SUVs, has spent her entire career in automotive advertising and much of it serving Ford. “Jovina was the one who suggested we enter as a novice team. I thought she was crazy, but also thought, why not? I love that it’s not a race for speed– smarts and savvy are just as important as driving skill. Since we are both new to off-roading and navigation, we plan to share the responsibilities and help each other out as much as possible,” said Martin. “I love the look of the Bronco Sport. I am a sucker for the boxy, utilitarian design. I also appreciate all of the smart off-road technology and available equipment on the Badlands trim in particular. G.O.A.T. Modes, trail control, and locking rear differential are all features that help a novice like myself feel more confident on the trail. I’m just so grateful to work for Ford and have this opportunity. This is something I would probably never do on my own and now here I am! I’ve learned so much already in my short month of training. No matter what happens in the rally, this has already been an extremely rewarding experience and I have a new love for off-roading.”
Freelance automotive journalist Elana Scherr is new to Rebelle, but has participated as a co-driver/navigator on numerous Baja and other races. Her career began at HOT ROD Magazine; she is currently a columnist and contributor to Car and Driver among other magazines and websites and recently finished her first book, a biography of drag racer Don Prudhomme. “After covering off-road racing for so long, I thought it would be great to get a chance to be behind the wheel,” said Scherr, who along with her husband owns 13 cars, including a 1965 Ford tow truck. I had been following the Rebelle from its beginnings, and I was interested in the challenge of a slower, more strategy-based experience,” said Scherr, who will be the primary driver, but will also share responsibility for navigation. “After several years of covering round, dull crossovers, I’m interested to see how the Bronco Sport lives up to its little brawler design.”
Scherr’s co-driver, Betsy Anderson, is a mechanical designer, who has worked with General Atomic Aeronautical Systems for 24 years and has been off-road racing for over 20 years, including the SCORE series, NORRA MEXICAN 1000, and SONORA RALLY. The first-time Rebelle participant is looking forward to “the adventure and challenging the dunes. I’m interested to see how the Bronco Sport handles in all the different terrain we will encounter, plus I’m so excited to be participating in an all-women’s event,” offered Anderson, who is also an AERC Endurance horse rider.
Rebelle Rally founder Emily Miller is thrilled that Ford is sponsoring three teams. “The world has been anxiously awaiting the opportunity to see the new Bronco line-up, and we’re excited to have the Bronco Sports showcasing their capabilities.
**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.