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The Notable, Strong, and Experienced Rebelle Rally Women

Rebelles are tough. They’re strong, dedicated, and can withstand many challenges. Rebelle Rally women are also supportive, have empathy, and can stare defeat or adversity straight in the face while trying to conquer it. These women come in many ages, ethnicities, religions, and backgrounds. But they have a common goal: to finish the rugged and strenuous off-road race known as the Rebelle Rally.

At the 2019 Rally, 38 teams of Rebelle Rally women fought their way across the California and Nevada deserts, including the mighty Glamis sand dunes, to end the rally at the Mexican border. They journeyed through remote country; 1,500 miles of dirt, rock, mud, and sand. Ten days of dirty, dusty, and determined rallying—without using any navigational technology. No cell phones, laptops, or GPS devices, only topographic maps, a compass, and wits are allowed.

2019 Rebelle Rally Women Emme Hall and Rebecca Donaghe

Team Jeeves #200

Seasoned ralliers Emme Hall and Rebecca Donaghe know a thing or two about the
Rebelle Rally. They’ve done it every year since its inception in 2016 and have won both 4×4 and crossover classes. Hall, an experienced racer, paired up with Donaghe right before the first rally started. Both Rebelle Rally women lost their partners right before the competition and the rally suggested they compete together. The rest is a decorated history.

Team Jeeves Rolls-Royce Cullinan

A first, Rolls-Royce corporate backed a Cullinan for the 2019 rally for Team Jeeves.

What vehicle did you drive and what was your team name?

Emme Hall: 2019 Rolls-Royce corporate-backed Cullinan as Team Jeeves #200.

What are your greatest achievements in the motorsports/automotive field?

EH: Winning the Rebelle Rally in both 4×4 and crossover certainly is a huge accomplishment, but honestly I think it’s just showing up. You can’t win if you don’t race and sometimes it’s hard. When I race, I race to finish. So often just crossing the finish line with the car intact and a record of consistent lap times makes me pretty happy.

Rebecca Donaghe: My rally background started with Emily Miller [Rebelle Rally’s founder] training me to navigate and drive off road. I’ve only competed in five rallies, but I’ve podiumed in three of them (two of which were wins). I guess my record is pretty good considering I’m a relative neophyte.

Team Jeeves Rolls-Royce Cullinan

Why did you start racing, rallying, or getting involved in the motorsports/automotive industry?

EH: Because it’s fun! And I needed a way to spend all my money.

RD: I like the idea of long-distance endurance styles of racing/rallying—for me it’s more about the adventure, the problem solving, and the survival than the racing or speed. Motorsports just means I don’t have to physically run.

What’s been your greatest struggle to get to where you are today?

EH: I often compare myself to others, which is always a bad idea. Once I started to look to successful people who have great careers as inspiration and look at their paths to see what I can learn from them, I started making strides.

“It’s OK to take the long way around if it means having a better chance at a trouble-free future.”
—Emme Hall

RD: Doubt and hesitation, those are my greatest struggles. And those come from fear, so pushing through that is the difficulty. I used to wait until I was so cornered or had nothing to lose before I could muster the courage to do something that scared me. Now I seek physical challenges that make me practice facing fear so that I recognize the hesitations and doubts that come from it and know what it feels like to push through it. The practice helps!

What was the most challenging or interesting part during the Rebelle Rally?

EH: For the Rolls it was keeping the tires together. Due to fitment issues we had to run on their stock winter snow tires on 21-inch wheels. We ran Barstow and Johnson Valley, the rockiest section of the course, without a spare. That took careful route planning for both of us, careful line choices on my part, and lots of rock relocation on Rebecca’s part.

RD: Making strategic decisions. When we had to decide whether to take a penalty and grab an extra spare or go without and finish with what we started, it was tough.

What’s your biggest takeaway from the Rebelle?

EH: There are only solutions. It’s OK to take the long way around if it means having a better chance at a trouble-free future.

RD: I agree with Emme. That’s a great one.

Team Jeeves Rolls-Royce Cullinan

Team The X Elles #190

Rachelle Croft and Taylor Pawley aren’t new to the Rebelle Rally, either. Both Rebelle Rally women competed in multiple rallies, but this was the first time the pair teamed up together to win this year’s Rebelle 4×4 class. Croft, a Montana native, grew up with a love for driving. Ever since her first rally competition in Morocco, she’s learned all she could to be a great all-around driver. Croft’s full-time job, besides a mom of three boys, is producing Expedition Overland with her husband, Clay. Pawley, also a world traveler, spent two years journeying from Oregon to Uruguay on the Pan American Highway. There she realized an incredible community of people, those who eventually drew her to join the Rebelle Rally. This was Pawley’s third Rebelle Rally competition.

Team X Elles 2019 Lexus GX 460

Seasoned Rebelles, Croft and Pawley drove this corporate-backed stock 2019 Lexus GX 460 to the podium, acquiring First Place finish in the 4×4 Class.

What is your racing or rally background?

Rachelle Croft: It all began in 2011 when Clay brought home a postcard from Emily Miller with the Rallye Aïcha Des Gazelles on it. I thought, “Wouldn’t that be nice,” and left it at that. Five months later my teammate and I were in Morocco at the starting line. I’ve competed in that rally three times and the Rebelle twice. My husband and I also produce the series Expedition Overland, which includes many sponsors from the automotive industry. I did not grow up in this industry, but I love it and I am so thankful to be a part of it!

Taylor Pawley: I am on my third Rebelle Rally and looking for new and exciting races to sink my teeth into with Rachelle now that I know what we’re capable of. But, we’ll always come back for the Rebelle!

Rebelle Rally women Rachelle Croft and Taylor Pawley

What are your greatest achievements in the motorsports/automotive field?

RC: It’s a tie between completing three Gazelle rallies and winning the Rebelle Rally this year. Each one took hard work and persistence. I am grateful for each failure and win along the way.

TP: My greatest achievement was running a successful retreat in Costa Rica with 12 happy clients from around the world. I got to show them things that made Costa Rica so special to me and teach them the overlanding skills I’ve learned throughout my travels.

What vehicle did you drive and what was your team name?

RC: Stock 2019 Lexus corporate-backed GX 460 as Team X Elles #190.

Team X Elles 2019 Lexus GX 460

Team X Elles 2019 Lexus GX 460 rearview

Did you learn anything about yourself during the Rebelle Rally?

RC: For sure! I learned wins and doing well at something don’t happen by accident. If you
really want something, you have to show up for it every day—no matter if you feel like it or not. I learned when I really apply myself I’m  capable of great things, all while enjoying every moment. These events are a fast track to an inside look at yourself, what you love, and what you may want to change for the better.

TP: I learned how to be cool under pressure this year. The fact that we led the scores every day might make someone feel less pressure, but every morning I woke up and saw we were ahead by 10 points, or 4 points, or 15 points, just made me that much more aware of the target on our back. Each little mistake was that much harder because we knew it could cost us our First Place finish. It was definitely a new experience for me. I would say I learned a lot about myself and how to cope as a team under pressure.

Rebelle Rally women Team X Elles

Team Locos Mocos Rebelles #182

Working in the off-road world full time sets Erica Sacks and Laura Hardesty apart from many other Rebelle Rally women. Sacks grew up racing off-road with her dad and then started racing with other limited class teams. She’s lightweight, is currently an off-road racing professional navigator, owns her own business called the Waypoint Nav School, and can change a tire. Hardesty has been off-roading since she was a child and currently owns and operates VORRA (Valley Off Road Race Association) with her husband, BJ. They offer up a variety of desert and short course races throughout Northern Nevada and California. Before owning VORRA, Hardesty was a career firefighter and paramedic. Whereas Sacks is a seasoned racer, she was new to the Rebelle Rally. Hardesty, however, rallied in 2018 and came back to compete in 2019.

Team Locos Mocos Rebelles Erica Sacks and Laura Hardesty

Team Locos Mocos Rebelles rallied in this 2004 Toyota TRD Tacoma.

What vehicle did you drive and what was your team name?

Laura Hardesty: Customized 2004 Toyota TRD Tacoma as Team Locos Mocos Rebelles #182.

How did you two meet?

Erica Sacks: We were introduced about a year ago at ORMHOF (Off Road Motorsports Hall of Fame) by another Rebelle competitor, Emme Hall. She asked me to be her partner on Instagram and then we met again at the fundraiser event for [the Rebelle Rally].

LH: It was a very brief meeting, but months later we reconnected and became partners. After spending some time together, I’d definitely call Erica a friend!

What are your greatest achievements in the motorsports/automotive field?

ES: My greatest achievement would have to be Waypoint Nav School. Racing is super expensive and it takes up a lot of time; between traveling, pre-running, and racing you can be gone two or more weeks at a time. So, Waypoint Nav School was a way to create income when I race, along with passing on my knowledge from the “right” seat.

LH: My husband and I were nominated for an ORMHOF Impact Award. It was a huge surprise and we are so honored just to be nominated. Taking over VORRA really has been a dream come true for us!

Rebelle Rally women Team Locos Mocos Rebelles

What’s been your greatest struggle to get to where you are today?

ES: The biggest struggle I’ve had in racing is that I’m 5-foot-0. In off-road, the unlimited classes use 35- to 40-inch tires that weigh more than me. Most drivers don’t want to help change tires so I was sort of stuck in the limited classes until Sara Price had me race with her and we changed tires together in less than three minutes.

LH: Learning to trust that I’m on the right path, even when it doesn’t seem like it. There are so many times I’ve been frustrated or unsure of things … but they always have a way of working themselves out.

Is there anything you want to tell other women who are aspiring to get into this sport?

ES: Do your best and stay humble. People will doubt you, but it’s how you handle the pressure and the actions you take that will earn you respect.

LH: Don’t feel like you need to use being a girl as a gimmick. It’s perfectly OK to be a solid athlete who just so happens to be a female. If you like pink and are girly, that’s cool. But if you don’t, it’s not necessary. Be a badass on your own terms.

VORRA represented on the tailgate of Team Locos Mocos Rebelles

Valley Off Road Race Association (VORRA) proudly represented on the tailgate of Team Locos Mocos Rebelles’ Tacoma.

Team Escape The Paved #176

Two-time Rebelle Rally women team Sarah Homer and Lindsey Hunter from Team Escape the Paved, #176, conquered their hurricane-ravaged lives by competing in Rebelle Rally. Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 hurricane, made landfall on Texas in August 2017, causing catastrophic flooding and numerous deaths. It changed their lives forever.

Hunter, an engineer with ConocoPhillips, and Homer, a nursing director with the Houston Methodist Hospital, lost their Houston homes in the tragedy. Storms normally hit land and then head back to sea, but Harvey got stuck circulating over Houston for four days. Both families evacuated with their kids on pool floats but returned five days later to 3.5 feet of water in their homes. They lost everything, including one vehicle each, but Homer rescued their stock Ford Raptor before waters got too high. Rallying a Raptor for the Rebelle proved to be a multi-year podium performer. In 2018 the team competed in Homer’s personal truck, but after an accident in 2019 where it was totaled, they competed in the bone stock and 4×4 categories via a Ford Motor Company–supplied Raptor. This platform helped Hunter and Homer earn the Rookie Award in 2018 and Third Place via the 4×4 class in 2019.

Team Escape the Paved Ford Raptor

Team Escape The Paved proves that hurricanes and other life challenges simply make one stronger and prepared to accomplish more in life.

How did you two meet?

Lindsey Hunter: We were next door neighbors. Our family just moved to Texas from Alaska for my job. We met about a week after we moved in, but we really got to know one another two weeks later when the hurricane hit.

How did Hurricane Harvey change you?

LH: It sounds cliché but it made me stronger. I didn’t even know what [our family] was capable of. We busted our butts and came out stronger on the other side. So many amazing people come to our aid, from total strangers to amazing family members.

Sarah Homer: I think Harvey was good Rebelle prep. It’s a marathon to rebuild in a city where thousands of families are doing the same. You learn to do a lot of things (Lindsey can rewire your house, I can install toilets). All you can do is keep going. I literally pitched to Lindsey this idea of the Rebelle because “we just rebuilt our house, we ought to be able to figure [Rebelle Rally] out.” We needed a different identity—I was tired of being the woman with the flooded house. We had really nice homes with nice stuff. It all was taken away, so you wondered what you’d been working for. We learned stuff matters a lot less and what you take away from life is the people you meet, places you’ve been, and experiences you’ve had.

Rebelle Rally women Sarah Homer and Lindsey Hunter with their Ford Raptor

Ford Motor Company supplied Team Escape The Paved this Ford Raptor as their platform in the 2019 Rebelle Rally.

What’s your greatest achievement in the motorsports/automotive field?

LH: I think surviving Harvey goes unsaid, but it’s a general achievement regarding my career. I came into the oil and gas industry with an odd degree (civil engineering) from a non-traditional university and tackled technical and leadership challenges thrown my way. I’ve worked with our corporate leadership team and am now in a leadership position where I have an impact on young folks in our company.

SH: I’m not sure tackling Harvey is an achievement but it’s definitely part of my story—it makes you stronger.

Anything you want to tell other women who are aspiring to get into this sport?

LH: There is no try, only DO! To start is hard, but once you’re committed and working for your goals you’ll surprise yourself.

SH: You don’t know how much you know until you get out there and do it. There’s a great sense of accomplishment in getting out there and owning all those decisions and making it across the finish line.

Team Record The Journey #207

Four-time returning Rebelle Rachael Ridenour partnered up with rookie Karah Behrend, a wheelchair-bound adaptive athlete, to run the Rebelle in a 2017 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross. Ridenour, a 30-year Army veteran and founder/CEO of Record The Journey paired up with Behrend after chatting via Instagram. Behrend, an Air Force retiree, plays wheelchair rugby and basketball and travels the country mentoring other veterans. Although Behrend is very active, she has a rare and progressive neurological disease called reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD). She’s a quadriplegic (not a paraplegic) but that doesn’t stop her. Ridenour’s organization helps military veterans and their families get into the great outdoors and into the present moment via outdoor photography and adaptive recreation programing—making Ridenour’s team with Behrend ideal.

Mitsubishi USA partnered with Road Race Engineering and others to make the crossover accessible for Behrend to pilot it. These items included hand controls from The Ability Center for her to drive, a grab bar on the Mitsu’s A-pillar so she can transfer in and out of her seat, along with custom brackets and mounting points for Ridenour to secure Behrend’s two wheelchairs. One chair was her daily driver, while the other was an off-roader by Grit Freedom Chair so Behrend could successfully traverse through dirt and sand. The dedication and communication between Ridenour and Behrend garnered them Second Place in the crossover class—with Behrend making history as the first adaptive athlete to compete in the Rebelle Rally.

Team Record the Journey Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross

Mitsubishi USA partnered with Road Race Engineering and others to make this Eclipse Cross accessible for Behrend.

What vehicle did you drive and what was your team name?

Rachael Ridenour: Customized Mitsubishi corporate-backed Eclipse Cross as Team Record The Journey #207.

Why did you decide to compete in the Rebelle Rally?

RR: To try something I was a novice at. I had zero experience going into the first year. After seeing how the experience shaped others, I decided to sponsor a veteran each year to share the experience.

Karah Behrend: When Rachael asked me to be her partner, I googled if somebody in a wheelchair had ever done this before. I couldn’t find any information so I wanted to make sure the information is out there for the next person.

What’s your racing or rally background?

RR: As my own coping mechanism trying to reconcile my experiences in Afghanistan, I started driving further off the beaten path in a quest for solitude and great nature photography opportunities. This led to more off-roading and to the Rebelle Rally. It may not seem photography and off-roading have a lot in common but there’s a ton of overlap. Both require being present to be successful, a combination of art and science, and start with preparation to end up in beautiful and delightful places.

KB: I was given the opportunity; I will never turn down a chance for a good story to tell my grandkids one day.

Rebelle Rally Women Rachael Ridenour and Karah Behrend

Ridenour and Behrend proved to be a duo perfectly matched up as they earned Second Place in the crossover class.

What are your greatest achievements in the motorsports/automotive field?

RR: Starting an organization that’s trying to make a difference in the lives of military veterans and their families.

KB: Regaining my independence.

What’s your biggest takeaway from the Rebelle that you can use for your future endeavors?

RR: Never underestimate your success pack and #tribe Rebelle!

KB: Nothing is impossible with a good team of critical thinkers!

Being a Rebelle means different things to different women. Getting to the start is a huge accomplishment for some, whereas a podium finish is important for others. Everyone starts somewhere; these women followed their passion to pursue personal greatness in the rally world.

Team Record The Journey Rebelles Rachael Ridenour and Karah Behrend

Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared in the May/June 2020 print issue of Tread Magazine

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