The Rebelle Rally is a women-only off-road navigational competition that covers more than 1,400 miles of the western desert in the U.S. In its sixth year, fifty teams will put their crossovers, SUVs and pickups to the test in a grueling ten-day race. Eleven automakers are sponsoring teams this year and some have more than one vehicle in the race. The 2021 Rebelle Rally kicks off Thursday, October 7 at the Hoover Dam.
The Rebelle Rally was founded by Emily Miller in 2015. A winning offroad driver and navigator, Miller started the rally to give women the opportunity to take stock vehicles—vehicles that haven’t been specifically modified to meet the demands of driving off road—to remote places.
“We built this competition and format specifically for stock manufacturer vehicles, not modified race vehicles,” Miller said. “The Rebelle is a competition for points not speed, with multiple types of challenges on terrain the vehicles are built for. It’s a way to showcase the vehicles in people’s driveways.”
Old School Navigation
The Rebelle Rally relies on precision navigation, driving and teamwork. Using modern GPS tools to navigate is against the rule. Competitors use a compass, map tools, a rally computer and contour maps provided during the event to find geofenced coordinates located in remote checkpoints that are scattered around the desert. Some are easier to find than others, but all require concentration and skill.
Green checkpoints have visual markers like flags, while blue checkpoints may or may not have markers. Black checkpoints are unmarked and are the most challenging to find. Points are awarded based on how close teams get to the center of each geolocated spot.
Each team is made up of two competitors: a driver and a navigator (not necessarily relegated to one role or the other). In some cases, the women know each other well. Others just met. Each night teams set up camp together, make needed repairs on their vehicles and plot out their next moves. In the morning they rise before the sun comes up to begin the process in the great western desert once again.
More than 50 teams are currently signed up for the 2021 event. A handful of the teams are sponsored by automakers and the rest enter on their own using personal vehicles. The teams will traverse everything from mountain terrain to massive dunes and are required to carry a cargo such as rescue and camping gear as well as spare vehicle parts.
Competitors are broken into classes based on the vehicle capability. The X-Cross class is for all-wheel-drive equipped crossovers and SUVs, while the 4×4 class is reserved for vehicles with two-speed transfer cases and locking differentials. Last year the rally added an Electrified designation that will this year comprise three full EV entries and any other vehicles with electrified powertrain components. These vehicles still compete in the category for which they are designed, among their gasoline powered counterparts.
“We put extensive time and resources specifically into building the Electrified designation and inviting the manufacturers to take part,” Miller said. “The rally is difficult, remote and long, which serves as a real test of the EV and PHEV vehicles. It addresses the same challenges and concerns that are top of mind for consumers.”
“What I hope to see in the future is that these learnings and real-world experiences push innovation, and I also hope that more manufacturers will be bold enough to enter their vehicles,” she said.