7 of the wildest factory modified off-roaders at the Rebelle Rallye 2021


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The women’s off-road rally, which is already in its sixth year, leads over 2,500 kilometers through the US desert in October

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Race on Sunday, sale on Monday. That used to be the mantra, but over the years many automakers have moved away from motorsport. Now that trucks and SUVs dominate the market, several are bringing theirs to the Rebelle Rally 2021, billed as the first all-women off-road rally in the US

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The event is now in its sixth year and will take place October 7-16, 2021. It covers about 2,500 km of desert in Arizona, Nevada and California. It’s only open to production vehicles that are covered and street legal – some modifications are allowed, but custom built racing cars aren’t allowed – and it’s all about navigation and driving, not speed. The competitors can neither use GPS nor telephone and rely on maps, road books and compasses. This year there are 52 entries consisting of a driver and a navigator only, with no personal support teams.

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The vehicles don’t have to be new, and many participants are just crazy about driving – even though the entry fee before costs is just under $ 13,000. But more and more automakers are getting involved and putting up new vehicles to test and advertise.

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There are two divisions: 4 × 4 vehicles; and “X-Cross” for all-wheel drive vehicles, and some are fully electric or electrified. Here are some of the manufacturer-sponsored vehicles tackling the desert.

Nissan

Sedona Blinson and Lyn Woodward with their 2022 Nissan Frontier;  the two took fourth place in the 2020 edition.
Sedona Blinson and Lyn Woodward with their 2022 Nissan Frontier; the two took fourth place in the 2020 edition. Photo by Nissan

Nissan has taken part in every Rebelle rally to date, and this year it is with a 2022 Frontier Pro-4X that pays homage to its hardbody truck off-road racers of the 1980s. The Frontier is spiced up with NISMO Off Road parts, including a suspension kit, lights, power exhaust and wheels. Co-drivers Sedona Blinson and Lyn Woodward return for 2021 after finishing fourth last year.

jeep

Teralin Petereit and Nena Barlow in their Jeep Wrangler 4Xe are one of three Jeep factory teams at the 2021 event.
Teralin Petereit and Nena Barlow in their Jeep Wrangler 4Xe are one of three Jeep factory teams at the 2021 event. Photo by Stellantis

It is estimated that a third of all rally participants arrive by jeep. The automaker has added three of its own factory teams, all of whom drive a Wrangler 4xe plug-in hybrid (PHEV). The teams include experienced rally drivers Nena Barlow and Teralin Petereit; Mother-daughter team Christine and Emily Benzie, who won their class last year with their personal day driver Wrangler; and newcomers Shandiina Peters and Racquel Black, the rally’s first Navajo team.

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Kia

Kia has submitted two 2022 Sorento PHEVs that have been modified for the event by a female motorsport store.
Kia has submitted two 2022 Sorento PHEVs that have been modified for the event by a female motorsport store. Photo by Kia

The 2022 Kia Sorento is available as a plug-in hybrid in the US, two of which the company used in the rally. Both were customized by LGE-CTS Motorsports, a women-owned company in California. Modifications include underrun protection, bumper protection, towing eyes, 17-inch wheels with Hankook off-road tires and a 1-inch spring lift for ground clearance.

The teams are driver Alyssa Roenigk and navigator Sabrina Howells, who teamed up and finished second in a Kia Telluride in 2020; and professional rally driver Verena Mei and navigator Tana White.

Mitsubishi

Military veterans Selena Converse and Erin Mason ride Mitsubishi's 2022 Outlander along with PTSD support dog Sammy.
Military veterans Selena Converse and Erin Mason ride Mitsubishi’s 2022 Outlander along with PTSD support dog Sammy. Photo by Mitsubishi

The only entry with a three- The member team is Mitsubishi’s 2022 Outlander. It is piloted by Sisters-in-Law and Military Veterans, Selena Converse and Erin Mason, accompanied by a PTSD service dog (also female) named Sammy. The paintwork of the Outlander pays tribute to Jutta Kleinschmidt, the only woman who won the Dakar Rally and did so two decades ago in a Mitsubishi Pajero. In addition to Mitsubishi, the women also represent Record the Journey, a non-profit veterans’ association.

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ford

Ford has entered both two- and four-door versions of the Bronco and Bronco Sport for the event.
Ford has entered both two- and four-door versions of the Bronco and Bronco Sport for the event. Photo by Ford

Ford puts on three teams, in Bronco two- and four-door and a Bronco Sport. All have a paint job similar to that of the Bronco 4600, which runs in the ULTRA4 off-road racing series.

Shelby Hall and Penny Dale, a professional driver and navigator, respectively, won the X-Cross class in a Bronco Sport last year and will be driving the Bronco two-door this year. The professional off-roaders Melissa Fischer and Cora Jokinen will drive the Bronco Sport; while Kathryn Reinhardt and Victoria Bundrant, who work for the off-road supplier 4 Wheel Parts, drive their first Rebelle rally in a Bronco four-door.

Honda

Honda engineers Liz Long and Tasha Krug drive a Ridgeline pickup truck.
Honda engineers Liz Long and Tasha Krug drive a Ridgeline pickup truck. Photo by Honda

Two of the automaker’s engineers are driving a Ridgeline in the X-Cross class. Both come from Honda’s Ohio Auto Development Center: Liz Long is a chassis reliability test engineer, while Tasha Krug is an engine systems and drivability test engineer.

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The couple finished third in the X-Cross class with a Honda Passport in 2019 and also became Rookie of the Year. Modifications to the Ridgeline include a landing gear lift kit, custom oil pan, skid plates, recovery points, a dual spare wheel carrier, and all-terrain tires. The orange and black casing of the truck was designed by Lili Melikian, an exterior designer at Honda.

Volkswagen

Volkswagen made some chassis modifications to its ID.4, but none to its fully electric powertrain.
Volkswagen made some chassis modifications to its ID.4, but none to its fully electric powertrain. Photo from Volkswagen of America

Volkswagen of America is contesting its first Rebelle rally with a fully electric ID.4 AWD in the X-Cross category. The ID.4 has been modified by Tanner Foust Racing and Rhys Millen Racing, with additional skid plates, battery protection, new suspension components and Yokohama all-terrain tires. The powertrain, which has an EPA estimated range of 400 km, is untouched.

The driver of the ID.4 is the freelance car author Mercedes Lilienthal, who started in 2018; The navigator is Emily Winslow, who has two Rebelle rallies and a podium place under her belt.

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