When Rebelle Rally started in 2015, the intent was to showcase the driving skill of women. But this 10-day, 1,400-mile off-road navigational race, which is currently underway for 2021, is a great way to showcase some crossovers, SUVs and trucks and how well they can handle rugged conditions. It’s the longest off-road rally in the United States.
Truth be told, Rebelle Rally is one of the most underrated, under-appreciated car events of the year as it accomplishes all it sets out to do not only by highlighting some of the most talented drivers but also allowing auto manufacturers to get a real-world testing ground for their vehicles.
Each year, 50 teams consisting of two women participate in the 10-day event that spans the Nevada and California desert. Teams are not allowed cell phones or electronic devices and are left to navigate the old-fashioned way (compass and map) while also racing against others across rugged terrain.
Yep, that’s pretty bad ass.
Automakers that have teams and vehicles in the Rebelle Rally this year include Jeep, Subaru, Porsche, Nissan, Toyota, Kia, Mitsubishi, Ford, Honda, Rivian and even Volkswagen with its all-electric ID.4. There are two categories of competing vehicles: 4×4 (trucks and all-wheel drive vehicles) and X-Cross (think two-wheel drive crossovers and SUVs).
Here is a round up of just a few of the vehicles entered into the 2021 Rebelle Rally.
Honda has competed in Rebelle Rally for the last three years, and this year a team of engineers will be driving a modified Ridgeline in the X-Cross class. The Honda HPD Ridgeline features additional light modifications to further increase its off-road capability, including custom oil pan and fuel tank skid plates, custom front recovery points, a suspension lift kit and all-terrain tires. Unique to the team’s Ridgeline is a sportier-sounding custom exhaust and an in-bed dual full-size spare tire carrier.
All vehicles in Rebelle Rally get special exterior badging, and the Ridgeline is no exception as this year’s entry has a unique grille, black fender flares, bronze color-wheels and HPD graphics.
Tasha Krug is a Honda engine systems and drivability test engineer and will be one of the participants in Rebelle Rally.
“Rebelle Rally is an excellent proving ground for the capabilities of the 2021 HPD Ridgeline, and we’re ready to do our best and see what new adventures this year’s rally brings,” Krug said.
Nissan has competed in every Rebelle Rally since it began, and this year’s entry serves as an homage to their Hardbody champion off-road racers of the 1980s.
The one-off 2022 Nissan Frontier PRO-4X is appointed with a slew of Nismo off-road parts including NISMO Off Road 4-inch Lights, NISMO Off Road Performance Exhaust, NISMO Off Road Suspension Kit and NISMO Off Road AXIS Wheels.
Nissan appears to be taking this seriously, and rather than using the opportunity for engineering and product development, its fourth-place finishing team from last year returns to drive this year’s entry and has high aspirations for medaling.
“We’ll be rooting for Team Wild Grace at the 2021 Rebelle Rally, proving what the all-new Frontier and new NISMO Off Road parts can do over some of America’s harshest landscapes. This truck has winning in its DNA,” said Michael Soutter, vice president, Nissan Aftersales, Americas.
At Rebelle Rally it’s all about family for Ford, and in this case we are talking about the Bronco family of vehicles as both the Bronco Sport and the two-door and four-door Bronco have teams. This grueling race seems well suited for all three different Broncos.
The Bronco Sport made its debut last year and actually won the X-Sport category.
This year’s entries are the Bronco Sport and Bronco four-door, which are Badlands trims, while the Bronco two-door is a Wildtrak trim. The Bronco two-door, equipped with the Sasquatch Package, and Bronco Sport vehicles maintain bone stock designation, with second-row seats removed. The Bronco four-door entry, like the other two Broncos will have livery inspired by the Bronco 4600 stock class that that will run in the ULTRA4 stock class off-road series later this year.
“This is such a great event to showcase what Bronco and these women off-roaders are capable of in the harshest conditions,” said Jovina Young, Bronco Sport marketing manager, who competed last year as a novice in a Bronco Sport.
No event like Rebelle Rally would be complete with an entry from Jeep. This year, the Jeep Wrangler is represented but it’s not quite what you’d expect.
Jeep will have three 4xe plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) in the field and no gas-only Wrangler. Jeep has competed for 6 years at Rebelle Rally, and this is the event to push the 4xe to its limit and see what it can and can’t do.
Not only is the Wrangler 4xe powerful, it’s also very versatile and efficient — all of these are critical attributes for success in the Rally,” said Nena Barlow of team No. 129. “With both electric and gas energy available, we won’t worry about range at all, even when I am gunning it in the dunes.”
Kia gets in on the Rebelle Rally action in a bold way with a PHEV version of the Kia Sorento.
Sorento PHEVs are wrapped with color schemes similar to the exclusive “Desert Sand” and “Pine Green” paint finishes on the Zion and Yosemite concepts. Each vehicle has been modified with underbody armor to protect the undercarriage, plus a front bumper guard and skid plate. Tow points have been affixed to the front and rear bumpers, while a 1-inch spacer lift provides a slight increase in ground clearance. Both rally vehicles sit atop 17-inch KMC matte black wheels and Hankook Dynapro AT2 all-terrain tires.
“The Rebelle Rally is an inspiration to women everywhere,” said Russell Wager, vice president of marketing, Kia America. “With our new slogan, ‘Movement That Inspires,’ and our long-standing relationship with Girls Inc. of Orange County, it only made sense for us to represent the non-profit at the women-only rally so that the young girls could cheer on our incredible teams taking on the arduous challenge in the Sorento PHEV.”
Two fully electric vehicles will be competing in Rebelle, too, as Volkswagen will have a team driving the ID.4 and Rivian will have a variant of the R1T.
If you haven’t heard of the Rebelle Rally, visit its website. You can actually watch part of the race live and see updated results.
At this event some teams are just there to finish, while others are there to win a medal. Those not looking to finish on the medal stand are there to gather real-world information about the off-road performance of a vehicle — or simply to test themselves and do something that seems impossible. And certainly Rebelle Rally and its magnificent rugged course are ideal for that.
The results automakers glean from the performance of their vehicles in Rebelle could lay the groundwork for future standard products — and that means the consumer wins, too, as these trucks and SUVs learn how to handle better and perform in tough conditions. Plus, driven by a bunch of bad-ass women, how can you lose?
By the way, we think our own Managing Editor Jill Ciminillo would be a great person to participate in next year’s Rally (hint, hint).