The Vehicles And Women Of The 2021 Rebelle Rally

2021 Rebelle Rally
A Jeep Wrangler chases a Honda Pilot in the 2020 Rebelle Rally deep in the southern California desert. Rebelle Rally

The Rebelle Rally is an all-women off-road navigational competition that covers more than 1,400 miles of the western desert in the U.S. Fifty two-woman teams will race in a mix of crossovers, SUVs and pickups in the grueling ten-day race that starts October 7 at the Hoover Dam. The 2021 Rebelle Rally marks the sixth year for the event and the largest amount of manufacturer participation to date.

The Rebelle is a competition for points not speed, with multiple challenges on terrain designed to test the capability of each participating vehicle. Eleven automakers will support teams in the 2021 rally across all vehicle classes, including those that will get the new-last-year Electrified designation.

“We have manufactures that enter for different reasons,” said Emily Miller, which founded the Rebelle Rally in 2015 to give women the opportunity to take vehicles with little to no off-roading modifications to remote places.

2021 Rebelle Rally Ford Bronco Sport
Ford’s Bronco Sport took the title in the X-Cross category at the 2020 Rebelle Rally. It was piloted by pro off-roader Shelby Hall and navigator Penny Dale, who will drive the two-door Bronco. Ford

Automakers participating this year include Jeep, Porsche, Nissan, Toyota, Kia, Mitsubishi, Ford and Honda. Electric start up Rivian will participate for the second year in a row with its R1T pickup and Volkswagen will enter its all-new ID.4 electric crossover. An additional electric vehicle, yet to be announced, will round out the pure EV trio.

Teams compete in two categories based on vehicle capability: the X-Cross class for all-wheel-drive equipped crossovers and SUVs and the 4×4 class for vehicles with two-speed transfer cases and locking differentials. Though all vehicles fall into these two categories, an Electrified designation was added last year for pure EVs and other vehicles with electrified powertrain components.

“[Rebelle Rally] is designed as a proving ground and the manufacturers see the value in this,” Miller said. “We have some that enter engineers so they can literally live and compete in the vehicles they design.” Others use it as a test drive for women automotive journalists, employee development or even customer opportunities and incentives.

2021 Rebelle Rally Mitsubishi Outlander
Last year Mitsubishi entered an Outlander PHEV. For the 2021 Rebelle Rally the Japanese automaker has two Outlanders PHEVs competing in the race. Both will get the Electrified designation. Rebelle Rally

The X-Cross Vehicles

In the X-Cross SUV and crossover class, first-time participant Porsche will enter a 2020 Porsche Cayenne S. I will be driving the midsize SUV alongside my navigator is photographer, Beth Bowman.

Kia also is participating this year with two teams that will drive a pair of 2022 Sorento midsize SUVs with plug-in hybrid powertrains (they will get the electrified designation). ESPN journalist Alyssa Roenigk and Sabrina Howells—both Rebelle Rally veterans—are in one Sorento PHEV and the second is driven by stunt driver Verena Mei and Tana White.

Mistubishi is participating in the Rebelle Rally for the third year in a row in a 2022 Outlander. The automaker is running its team alongside Record the Journey, a military veteran’s charity organization. Piloting the Outlander are Air Force and Navy military veterans Erin Mason and Selena “Mason” Converse. The SUV has been adapted to accommodate Converse’s service dog, a German Shepherd named Sammy—the first four-legged Rebelle competitor.

Volkswagen will enter its new ID.4 all-electric compact crossover in the X-Cross category, but the automaker has yet to announce its team.

Ford will bring its compact Bronco Sport and two Bronco midsize SUVs into the 4×4 category. Professional off-roaders Melissa Fischer and Cora Jokinen will drive the Bronco Sport, which was named the winner of the 2020 Rebelle Rally in the X-Cross class albeit with a different team behind the wheel.

2021 Rebelle Rally Ford Bronco
Ford two-door Bronco is ready for the race. This is the vehicle that the automaker will enter in this year’s Rebelle Rally. Ford

The 4×4 Vehicles

The 4×4 group is larger than the X-Cross group, with a more varied mix of manufacturer and privateer teams. 

Ford’s two other teams will pilot a 2022 two-door Bronco and 2022 four-door Bronco. Professional off-roader Shelby Hall and navigator Penny Dale, who won last year’s X-Cross class in the Bronco Sport, will pilot the two-door Bronco. First-time Rebelle entrants Kathryn Reinhardt and Victoria Bundrant of off-road accessory supplier 4Wheel Parts will drive the four-door Bronco.

Honda will participate with a 2021 Honda Ridgeline pickup driven by Liz Long, a Honda chassis test engineer and Tasha Krug, a Honda engine systems and drivability test engineer. The automaker has participated in the Rebelle since 2018, previously using the event as proving ground for vehicles like the Ridgeline and Pilot midsize SUV.

2021 Rebelle Rally Honda Pilot
A pair of Honda engineers–Liz Long and Tasha Krug–drove a Honda Pilot in last year’s Rebelle Rally. This year Honda is entering its Ridgeline pickup, which Long and Krug also will drive. Rebelle Rally

Nissan also is back for 2021 with a 2022 Nissan Frontier pickup with KBB journalist and returning Nissan driver Lyn Woodward, with Sedona Blinson as the navigator. Nissan has participated in all six Rebelle Rallies.

In 2020 freshman automaker Rivian kicked off the first year of the Electrified designation, running a pre-production R1T all-electric pickup. This year, Roadshow journalist Emme Hall, and Rebecca Donaghe are returning in a production R1T. Rivian will be a part of the 4×4 class again this year.

Toyota is putting up two teams of Toyota engineers, one competing in a 2020 Toyota Sequoia full-size SUV and the other in a 2019 Toyota Tacoma midsize pickup. Both vehicles are sporting TRD Pro upgrades that include additions like suspension and skid plates. In the Tacoma will be Jessica Buck and Stacey Danhausen, engineers from Toyota Motor North America research and development in Saline, Michigan. Samantha Barber and Becky Brophy, engineers at the Production Engineering and Manufacturing Center in Georgetown, Kentucky will drive the Sequoia.

Jeep will enter its new plug-in hybrid variant of its top-dog off-roader, a 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe. Jeep has been a supporter of the Rally since the beginning and the Wrangler is a popular vehicle choice for many of the private teams. Nena Barlow, a seasoned Jeep guide, and Teralin Petereit will drive the Wrangler 4xe. It’s possible Stellantis (formerly Fiat Chrysler) many enter another team by October 7.

2021 Rebelle Rally Rivian R1T
Rivian’s highly anticipated R1T pickup will participate again. The startup electric vehicle builder was the first to use the Electrified designation. Rebelle Rally

Going Off Road: A Challenge for Modern Vehicles

Miller is clear about her commitment to offering a competition for stock vehicles and she says that’s one reason so many manufacturers are competing. Light trucks, a category made up of pickups, SUVs and crossovers, now account for nearly 80% of new vehicle sales. Part of the popularity is driven by the vehicles’ size and versatility, but another component is the growing popular interest in capability for adventuring. To meet the voracious demand, automakers are stuffing their lineups with vehicles that boast varying off-roading credentials.

Though most SUVs and crossovers offer light off-roading talent, very few are used to their full capacity. The Rebelle gives automakers a chance to showcase their vehicles going flat out over uncompromising terrain, inspiring owner confidence and, manufacturers hope, increased sales, especially among women.

“Freedom, adventure and capability are core to the Jeep brand’s values, and the Rebelle Rally, which covers more than 1,400 off-road miles of the most extreme conditions across the Nevada and California desert, is the epitome of adventure and capability,”  said Jim Morrison, vice president of Jeep in North America. “It’s the perfect venue to showcase our Jeep 4×4 capability along with the capabilities of our female teams.”

2021 Rebelle Rally Nissan Frontier
Nissan has participated in all six Rebelle Rallies. The automaker says 20% of its Frontier (pictured) buyers are women and as such it’s an effective way to showcase the truck’s capabilities to an important audience. Rebelle Rally

According to Kevin Rafferty, a product communications senior specialist at Nissan, “The Rebelle Rally is another way to reach a quickly growing audience of off-road enthusiasts. Nearly 20% of Nissan Frontier buyers are female, and Nissan sees an opportunity to continue to grow in this space, and the Rebelle Rally provides an excellent platform to do so.”

Porsche echoes this sentiment. “We thrive on competition—it’s ingrained into who we are—and by pushing ourselves and our cars we learn fast. More importantly, events like Rebelle Rally serve to inspire and to ignite interest and curiosity in a new generation of drivers,” said Shelby Akin, the product communications specialist for the Cayenne, Panamera and Macan.

While competitors will not have any form of Internet connectivity during the event, the Rebelle organizers will be broadcasting live on their site and provide daily updates on standings and results. The event concludes in the dunes of Glamis on October 17.