The first-ever Rebelle Rally promises to be a challenge, both physically and mentally.
Emme HallFormer editor for CNET Cars
I love two-seater, RWD convertibles and own a 2004 Mazdaspeed Miata for pavement fun and a lifted 2001 Miata for pre-running. I race air-cooled Volkswagens in desert races like the Mint 400 and the Baja 1000. I have won the Rebelle Rally, seven-day navigational challenge, twice and I am the only driver to compete in an EV, the Rivian R1T.
Between Lake Tahoe and Del Mar, California, it's a bit over 500 miles if you take the highway. That's not the route I'll be taking. From October 13th through the 22nd I'll cover well over 1,200 miles taking the back roads in the very first all-female Rebelle Rally. I'll be behind the wheel of truck #140, a 2015 Chevrolet Colorado, kitted out with aftermarket suspension components from Total Chaos Fabrication, tackling rocks, dirt, silt and dunes.
On the Rebelle Rally, speed won't be a factor, it's all about navigation. As the rules ban GPS and cell phones, my navigator Rebecca Donaghe and I will have to rely on a compass, a map and a variety of rulers, looking for both marked and unmarked checkpoints. We'll also have some TSD (time/speed/distance) stages, road book navigation and dead reckoning. The team with the best accuracy wins.
Donaghe will be operating our super accurate TerraTrip odometer, reading the maps, plotting coordinates and telling me where to go. She will be the boss of the truck while I chauffeur her along the route. This rally is tough on drivers, but it's brutal on navigators. Donaghe will get out of the truck literally hundreds of times to take a heading or help me scout terrain.
My main job as a driver involves not getting stuck and keeping the truck running. While we have access to mechanics at night, we have no chase crews during the day. If we get a flat tire, I change it (we're carrying two spares). We break a spring, I ratchet that bad boy up until we can get to a welder. Hell, I may even be fixing a hole in the radiator with JB Weld and a rock. Whatever the problem, it's my job to fix it.
Donaghe is a veteran of the Gazelle Rally, a similar event that takes place in Morocco. Her adventurous spirit and willingness to live outside her comfort zone make her an excellent teammate. We communicate well and have the same goals: 1. Have fun! 2. Podium, baby!
Our days will start with a 5 a.m. wake up call in the base camp. Showers and flush toilets will be available, but my experience in the Gazelle Rally tells me I probably won't care too much about keeping squeaky clean. After breakfast, we go off the line at 7 a.m. When we get to the next base camp that night we'll turn in our navigational books, fill the gas tank and drop the truck off at the mechanics' tent. After dinner it's lights out by 10 p.m. I doubt I'll make it that late.
We finish up the Rebelle Rally in Del Mar, California with a black-tie dinner and awards ceremony. After seven days of punishing terrain, spending our days sweaty, dirty and stinky, we get to clean up and put on our finest duds.