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Jeeps Score Big At First Rebelle Rally

Posted in Events on December 13, 2016
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Photographers: Paolo BaraldiNicole DreonTim Calver

When the dust settled in the Glamis Sand Dunes at the finish of the 2016 Rebelle Rally (the first-ever all-women’s off-road rally in the United States), it was a Jeep that crossed the finish line ahead of all the rest. Four Jeeps placed in the top five positions, and seven ranked in the top 10. In fact, Jeep was the most-winning vehicle brand in this highly competitive, seven-day navigation rally that traveled across the remote and rugged terrain of the American West from Lake Tahoe to the Imperial Sand Dunes of southern California.

The real winners, though, were the women who drove the Jeeps—and their co-drivers/navigators. However, it was the love of Jeeps and the confidence in the brand that led 16 out of the 33 participating two-person teams that competed in the 4x4 Class to choose Jeeps ranging from 2016 Wranglers to an ’82 Scrambler. The 1,200-mile-long rally had two vehicle classes: the 4WD Class for pickups and SUVs with a two-speed transfer case (among other vehicle-brand entrants were Toyota, Chevy, GMC, Land Rover, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Ram, and Range Rover); while the Crossover Class was open to vehicles with uni-body construction and all-wheel drive (no low range), and included the Jaguar F-Pace, Porsche Cayenne, and Honda Ridgeline.

Shelby Hall and Amy Lerner motor along the 1,200-mile course of the inaugural Rebelle Rally. Hall worked with husband Alex Baker, and Samco Fabrication in Reno, to set up the team’s 2015 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sport OM edition. Onboard: AEV bumper and a 2 ½ -inch lift; Bilstein Series Shocks; BFG K02s; Bestop Sunrider Top; XPEL paint protection; and ARB compressor and X-Jack.

Rebelle Rally Rules

Based on precision, rather than speed, the Rebelle Rally was created and directed by off-road trainer and competitor Emily Miller, who has participated in a number of the legendary all-women’s Gazelle Ralleye events in Morocco. Somewhat similar to the Gazelle, the ultimate goal of the Rebelle was to make competitors problem solve, be self-reliant, and display driving and navigation skills. All this was done without cell phones, GPS, or outside assistance.

Teams were made up of two women taking the interchangeable roles of driver and navigator. Using traditional map and compass skills, competitors were required to find checkpoints that Miller designed with a ski-like rating system of green, blue, and black. Green and blue check points were physically marked, while the coveted black check points had no physical marking and required that the team signal with a handheld tracker when they reached the radius of the coordinate. Adding a dimension of difficulty, competitors did not know if they were successful at finding the points, until they reached the base camp at the end of the day. Some sections used traditional rally road-books and required teams to maintain an average speed (at or below the posted legal speed).

Teammates Shelby Hall and Amy Lerner, with Chris Mayne (foreground) of France, assess topographical maps to find the location of rally checkpoints. Lerner, who owns an AEV-prepped Jeep Wrangler, drove Jay Leno off-road in a Jeep concept vehicle on CNBC’s ‘’Jay Leno’s Garage”. She got to know Shelby while producing a documentary on Rod Hall’s half century of racing.

Don’t Call Them Jeep Chicks

The Jeep contingent drew a number of veteran off-road competitors as well as novice drivers and navigators. Charlene Bower, of Bower Motorsports, who has been off-roading her “entire life,” but was not experienced in sand dunes, and Kaleigh Hotchkiss, who also co-drives with her husband in Dirt Riot events, drove their 2016 Jeep Rubicon to victory. Bower called their win “surreal,” as the teammates had only met each other shortly before the rally, had only trained for a small amount of time together, and neither had owned a compass until six months before the rally. The pair used “strategy and IQ” in locating the check points; and thinking on their feet, removed almost 600 pounds from their Jeep for the final day of dune driving. Bower said that taking out the spare tire and camping gear was a factor that aided in the dunes and gave her more confidence with the steep ascents and descents.

Taylor Pawley and Micaela Windham took second place in their ’97 Jeep Wrangler. Pawley told us her prior off-road experience, “comes from growing up on a cattle ranch in the middle of nowhere and learning to drive out of necessity, because we lived down a nine-mile dirt road and the school bus would only come seven of those miles to pick us up at the gate to our property. So, I learned to drive our 2001 Wrangler Jeep and drove that every day to the gate until I was old enough to get my license and drive myself the rest of the way to school. Pawley’s husband is an avid off-road driver, and after other international exploring in the past the couple are now headed out for three years of off-roading down the Pan-America Highway and in Africa. Pawley also praised Windham for her driving skills. Windham is an outdoor enthusiast and experienced off-roader, likes cars, trucks, and motorcycles, and set up the team Jeep with the help of her husband.

First place finishers Charlene Bower and Kayleigh Hotchkiss, both of Arizona, in their ‘16 Rubicon with 35-inch BF Goodrich KO2s and an ICON adjustable suspension. Hotchkiss is the CFO of a hospital and a recreational four-wheeler.

Shelby Hall and Amy Lerner placed fourth in their 2015 Wrangler Unlimited. Hall, the granddaughter of legendary off-road racer Rod Hall and in charge of the Rod Hall Drive events in Reno, came to the rally experienced in off-road driving, but had never competed as the driver-of-record. Lerner, who filled the role of navigator, is an experienced off-road rally driver and Jeep owner, who won the production class at the Australasian Safari Rally in a Jeep, and is the first woman to win a Dakar Challenge race. Lerner was also part of the first American team in the top 10 at the Gazelle Ralleye.

Taking fifth place in a 2005 Wrangler were Cora Jokinen, owner and president of Torq-Masters, and Melissa Fischer. Jokinen said, “I knew I wanted to be a part of the Rebelle as a woman-owned business leader in the off-road industry, and as a racer. I've been off-roading and fabricating for 15 years, and my navigator Melissa and I both have strong rock crawling backgrounds, but no experience with analog navigation.” Fischer is the president of Moab Friends for Wheeling and has led level 8-9 trails for Easter Jeep Safari for several years.

Rally terrain included dirt roads, double tracks, trails, and sand dunes in iconic locations, and the popular off-road recreational vehicle venues of Johnson Valley and Glamis Sand Dunes. The competition was limited each day to between eight and 11 hours, and the number of checkpoints varied from day to day, but topped out at 25 different locations.

Rebelle Rally Origins

Miller coined the name ‘Rebelle’ by joining together the words Rebel (a verb to defy convention) and Belle (a beautiful woman). Registration for the 2017 Rebelle Rally is open and limited to 60 teams. Miller revealed that next year's course will have some changes but a few similarities to this year's competition route, and will once again feature the stunning scenery of California and Nevada. The 2017 Rebelle Rally course will lead competitors through the historic Wild West region and in iconic OHV locations. To register or learn more, visit rebellerally.com.

Jeep Score Board: 2016 Rebelle Rally

1- 125 Charlene Bower / Kaleigh Hotchkiss 2016 Jeep Rubicon 815 80%
2- 119 Taylor Pawley / Micaela Windham 1997 Jeep Wrangler 785 77%
4- 134 Shelby Hall / Amy Lerner 2015 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 763 75%
5- 104 Cora Jokinen / Melissa Fischer 2005 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 762 75%
7- 118 Bailey Campbell / Kendra Miller 2016 Jeep Wrangler 745 73%
8- 115 Michelle Laframbroise / Jen Horsey 2016 Jeep Wrangler 736 72%
10- 131 Chris Mayne / Helene Becour 2016 Jeep Wrangler 733 72%
13- 117 Tory Capezza / Jen Magli 2016 Jeep Wrangler 707 70%
20- 124 JoMarie Fecci / Tracey Ristow 2015 Jeep Wrangler 638 63%
21- 132 Holly Freeman / Coralee Lack 2001 Jeep Wrangler TJ 636 63%
24- 142 Pamela Hall / Keri Boyer 2015 Jeep Wrangler 629 62%
26- 107 Thuy Davis / Darlene Peck 2015 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 613 60%
29- 112 Julie Covert / Jennifer Peine 1982 Jeep Scrambler 549 54%
30- 133 Whitney Joiner / Jaclyn Trop 2016 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 549 54%
32- 126 Michelle Davis / Andrea Shaffer 2004 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 462 45%
33- 111 Jenn Zipp-Richmond / Nick Bloom 2016 Jeep Wrangler 420 41%

Chris Mayne and Helene Becour of France, in their 2016 Jeep Wrangler. A total of 36 teams came from across the U.S., as well as Canada, France, and Costa Rica for the rally that has some similarities to the famed Gazelle Ralleye, but has differences and new challenges.
Cora Jokinen, president and owner of Torq-Masters, and Melissa Fisher, placed fifth in their 2005 Wrangler TJ Unlimited. The Jeep was set up with a roof rack for gear storage and additional recovery items, radios and pumpers were removed, and the cab was enclosed with custom door surrounds, upper doors, and a windjammer. Also onboard: Clayton long arm suspension, ADS remote reservoir shocks, TORQ locking differentials, and Corbeau suspension seats.
Taylor Pawley and Miceala Windham placed second in a ’97 Jeep Wrangler. Windham founded a Jeep club with friends and has “spent every weekend out on the trail for a few years,” while Pawley and her husband will be on the road to Central and South America for the next three years. Pawley’s blog posts will appear at runningfrommonday.com.
Barlow Adventures prepped all five of her company’s rally-rented Jeeps with 2 ½-inch TeraFlex suspensions, 35-ich Falken Wildpeak MTs, OR-Fab belly armor, Synergy axle armor, Method Race Wheels, and Daystar hoods.
Winners of the Team Spirit Award, voted on by rally participants, were Cora Jokinen and Melissa Fischer, who placed fifth. Their $5,000 prize was donated to the charity of their choice.
Fifth-place finishers Cora Jokinen and Melissa Fischer pulled out at least five other teams in the sand dunes, using their 2005 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. No outside assistance was allowed. Only other Rebelle teams could offer support during the competition.
The rally had four base camps and one self-camping night. Base camps were a traveling support village with toilets, showers, food, medical staff, mechanics, event staff, and competition officials. The marathon stage had a designated location for teams to camp, but provided no services.
The Rebelle drew 16 Jeep vehicles. Jeeps took first place, were four of the top five finishers, and seven of the top 10 finishers. Two-person teams could interchange roles as driver and navigator.
Barlow Jeep rentals were also endowed with Superwinch Talon winches, OR-Fab rock bumpers, TeraFlex roof racks, ARB rear bumpers, ARB air compressors Terratrip rally computers, and Bubba rope and Gator Jaw shackles. Nena Barlow and Kande Jacobsen placed third in a 2016 Ram 1500 Rebel.
Celebrating the journey are Holly Freeman and Coralee Lack, who placed 21st overall in their 2001 Jeep Wrangler TJ. Competitors ranged in age from 19-year-old Bailey Campbell, the youngest, to Dana Saxten, the oldest Rebelle at 68.
Chris Mayne, a communications officer, and Helene Belcour, an engineer, both of France, in the team’s 2016 Jeep Wrangler Jeep, placed 10th overall. Both love off-roading and have competed in a number of the Gazelle Ralleyes.
Charlene Bower motors the team’s Jeep in the Glamis Dunes. Bower has won a King of the Hammers’ Backdoor Challenge, placed second at a RallyVenture, and placed second at the 36 Hours of Uwharrie in the Pro Class.
Shelby Hall airs up the Wrangler’s BFGoodrich KO2s with their ARB compressor after driving in sand dunes, while teammate Amy Lerner keeps on eye on other competitors.
Kendra Miller of ARB, and Bailey Campbell placed seventh. They upfitted their ’16 Wrangler with an ARB front Stubby bar, rock sliders underbelly protection, a 4-inch OME suspension system with OME BP-51 internal bypass shocks and ARB control arms, front and rear ARB 35-spline air lockers, a Safari snorkel and breather kit, and ARB IPF H4 headlamps. The Jeep also sported Dana Ultimate 60s, Tom Woods driveshafts, TR beadlock wheels, and 35-inch Nitto Trail Grappler MT tires.
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