For the last few days, off-road driving competitors have been bushwacking through some of the worst trails and paths the West offers. Their competitors are participating in what is known as the Rebelle Rally, a competition that pits two-person teams armed with little more than a pencil, paper, map, and maybe a compass to trek through some of the most challenging bush trails in the country.
Rally To Cover 1,600-Miles In The Outback
The Rally kicked off late last week and is due to cover 1,600 grueling miles where the driver and navigator find their way as did drivers and navigators who participated in off-road rallies from the earliest days of motoring before the advent of GPS/Nav and cellphones. In fact, according to Jalopnik.com, which published a significant backgrounder on the Rebelle Rally, any tech is banned.
This year there are several major factory-backed off-roading teams, including three from Ford and teams sponsored by others like Hyundai and other manufacturers. The Ford effort involves the retro off-roading marque, the Bronco, which honors the original Bronco that debuted in 1965 and was a strong off-road competitor until the first Bronco era ended in the 1990s. It is now a competitor again with the relatively recently introduced Bronco that made its debut a couple of years ago.
Bronco, Ford's outdoor brand of Built Wild and only-4x4 SUVs, was attempting a three-peat this year as Ford has won two consecutive Rebelle Rallys in the event's X-Cross bone stock class. Ford has fielded three teams, including teams running the Bronco Sport, a Bronco two-door, and a four-door, during the all-woman outdoor navigation competition.
Ford Fields 3 Teams
Melissa Clark, a Bronco Moab Off-Roadeo Trail Guide and 2021 X-Cross winner, has teamed with Chris Benzie, a veteran Rebelle Rally navigator and semi-retired aerospace engineering executive, to go for the three-peat. X-Cross is one of two categories at the Rally and features two-wheel or all-wheel-drive vehicles. The other class is 4x4 for, naturally, four-wheel drive vehicles, like the full-size Bronco.
In addition to showcasing the off-road ability of the vehicle entries, the Rebelle Rally is designed to challenge the navigation skills of the participants. The event started in Incline Village, Nevada. It was to wind its way across rugged terrain in Nevada and California and finish in the Imperial Sand Dunes in southern California Saturday. Each team consists of a driver, navigator, and vehicle, with no personal support crews allowed. Participants spend their nights camping along the way.
Professional driver and Bronco Brand Ambassador Shelby Hall teamed again with Penny Dale, an experienced navigator in the 4x4 class. They will navigate the 1,600-plus mile terrain in a Bronco Wildtrak with a HOSS 3.0 System Package upgrade.
The HOSS 3.0 System Package includes FOX 2.5-inch Internal Bypass Dampers, Ford Performance severe-duty steering rack and tie-rod ends, a front steel bumper, and a front steel bash plate.
Hall and Dale previously won the X-Cross class in 2020 with Bronco Sport and finished fourth in the 4x4 class last year.
Kathryn Reinhardt (driver), marketing director at off-road accessory supplier 4 Wheel Parts, and Victoria Bundrant (navigator), marketing coordinator at 4 Wheel Parts, will showcase a customized Bronco Badlands upfitted by 4 Wheel Parts in the 4x4 category. With a 21st-place finish during their rookie year now under their belts, the pair is ready to improve in this year's event.
This year's event will feature 110 competitors who will use nothing more than a paper map and compass to bushwhack through more than 1,600 miles of off-road trails throughout the California and Nevada desert. The Rebelle Rally is now in its seventh year. The grueling event is the longest in the U.S., said the backgrounder from Jalopnik.com.
No GPS, No Cell Phones, No Problem
"The Rebelle is special in the world of off-roading, both because it's open only to women and because it is not a race about speed. It's a competition more easily characterized as a precision off-road trek that relies on driving and navigational skill," said Jalopnik.
"Competitors in teams of two (one driver, one navigator) go completely off the grid. No cell phones or GPS devices are permitted. Instead, you use printed topographical maps, paper map rulers, and compasses (properly declinated based on where you are in the desert) to find marked and unmarked checkpoints along the route."
Jalopnik continued, "To figure out distances, you use a rally computer that has to be calibrated to your tire size and constantly-changing tire pressure as you navigate everything — from soft dunes to sharp rock fields to tricky slot canyons. You're responsible for everything from small mechanical repairs to getting yourself unstuck."
Marc Stern has been an automotive writer since 1971 when an otherwise normal news editor said, "You're our new car editor," and dumped about 27 pounds of auto stuff on my desk. I was in heaven as I have been a gearhead from my early days. As a teen, I spent the usual number of misspent hours hanging out at gas stations Shell and Texaco (a big thing in my youth) and working on cars. From there on, it was a straight line to my first column for the paper, "You Auto Know," an enterprise I handled faithfully for 32 years. Not many people know that I also handled computer documentation for a good part of my living while writing YAN. My best writing, though, was always in cars. My work has appeared in Popular Mechanics, Mechanix Illustrated, AutoWeek, SuperStock, Trailer Life, Old Cars Weekly, Special Interest Autos, etc. You can follow me on: Twitter or Facebook.