Words: Mercedes Lilienthal | Photos: Mercedes Lilienthal, Paolo Baraldi, Nicole Dreon, Richard Giordano, Caleb Wallace and Regine Trias
All women. No GPS-assisted technology – just a map, compass and roadbook. Desert terrain with ground tent camping, plus 1,600 miles of vehicular-based challenges that your teammate, off-road rig and you must face. Would you do it? Fifty-four teams of two said yes and answered the call of adventure: they participated in the nation’s longest off-road rally competition, the Rebelle Rally.
Two different vehicle classes were offered. The crowd favorite since the event series came to be in 2016 is the four-wheel-drive category. This year’s line-up showcased a wide variety of popular off-roaders from privateers as well as OE-and product-manufacturer-supported teams alike.
Jeep had the strongest showing with 18 teams (which included three sponsored teams, including the author and her co-driver Emily Winslow). Toyota also had a strong presence, with nearly the entire 4×4 line-up in rally mode, with FJ Cruisers, 4Runners, and Tacomas tackling the dirt over the eight-day competition. Unique runabouts were also involved. First-time makes included an Isuzu VehiCROSS as well as a 2013 BMW X5 a factory-backed 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz in the rally’s crossover class: the X-Cross segment. New Ford Broncos also showed force, too.
Classics also arrived in style. A returning team brought their 1969 Ford Bronco 4×4 whereas a pair of older Land Rovers, a 1994 V8-powered D90 and 1992 Defender 110 HSE, claimed two of the rookie team slots.
Other ICE-powered X-Cross rigs included three OE-supported 2023 all-wheel-drive SUVs: a Nissan Rock Creek Edition Pathfinder, a Honda Pilot Trailsport, and a Kia Sportage X-Pro. A highly customized 2014 Subaru Outback and a pair of Bronco Sports filled out the crossover teams.
Electrify Me, Please
Fifty-four teams, half newcomers and the rest revisiting ralliers, hailed from 94 cities, 24 states and provinces, and four countries. Teams donned traditionally operated gasoline and diesel vehicles, as well as five electrified 4x4s. The 2022 rally showcased an ever-growing OEM presence, including two 2022 Toyota Tundra regular hybrid trucks (a TRD PRO and Limited with the Off-Road Package), an all-electric 2022 R1S SUV and R1T truck, as well as three bone-stock 2023 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4xe plug-in hybrids.
The event started on the north end of Lake Tahoe and twisted its way through the Nevada and California desert region. Teams faced loose dirt and steeps hills, rocky sections and sandy washes, and more as they searched for 158 hidden checkpoints. After seven days of competition, ralliers arrived at the famed Glamis sand dunes where the final section of the off-road rally took place.
Even though most competitors used a non-GPS-enabled Terra Trip or similar rally odometer computer to identify precise checkpoint positions, the author’s team completed the rally without one, using the 4xe’s simple stock trip odometer instead. This added an extra challenge to find invisible and hidden checkpoints correctly.
However, the author and her navigator, Winslow, used their prior rally experience to their advantage. They finished in the top 20 4×4 teams. They were also the first team to successfully complete the competition piloting vehicles that showcased an ICE (internal combustion engine) powerplant, an all-electric powertrain, and now an electrified plug-in hybrid. In addition to them making history in 2021 as the first-ever all-electric crossover team to complete the grueling off-road rally, they’re one of a handful of teams who have competed in both 4×4 and X-Cross classes.