Fresh off a big weekend as the race title sponsor in Las Vegas and on International Women’s Day, Pennzoil has announced a partnership with the Rebelle Rally.
The Rebelle Rally is the first women’s off-road navigating rally raid in the United States. An eight-day event through Nevada and California, the Rebelle Rally tests drivers and navigators for more than 10 hours each day. No digital instruments are allowed.
Pennzoil will not only support the rally and provide its products to competitors, but will also sponsor different programs. Among them is Rebelle U, which offers training for drivers, navigators and mechanics.
“We got to go out there last year and watch a couple of days of the race, and we were inspired and motivated by watching these women just give it their all,” Bree Sandlin, vice president of marketing for Pennzoil, told RACER. “It is really an inspirational event. From a Pennzoil perspective as well as a personal perspective, I love supporting and getting more women involved in motor sports and the automotive industry, and that’s what this event is all about.
“It’s about empowering women through this grueling life-changing event. Just to be a part of that means so much to us as a brand and to me personally as well.”
Emily Miller, a former off-road racer, founded the Rebelle Rally. Often the only woman in competition during her time, Miller wanted to create a world-class off-road rally for women that would not only let female racers shine, but be a proving ground for stock manufacturer vehicles.
“I wanted it to be here in the U.S. because, honestly, of all the places I’ve been able to travel, the best landscape and terrain is in California, Nevada, Arizona and Utah,” Miller told RACER. “It’s just epic and amazing. We started it eight years ago, and today it’s pretty incredible because we have so many vehicle manufacturers that are involved. This year, I believe we have 11 involved, and now they are starting to put their engineers in the seats so they can really test and improve the cars they’re driving.”
It took three years for Miller and her team to create the format of the Rebelle Rally. Miller said it works for those who are beginners to the competition as well as seasoned pros.
“It’s hard,” Miller said. “It builds endurance and it’s humbling. Because it’s not a race for speed, it’s a competition for points, drivers usually think they’re going to come in and crush i,t and really it is a combination of precision driving and precision navigating. It also teaches you a lot about communication and teamwork, and leadership.
“It’s humbling, and it really builds endurance skills and your strategy. The other thing is, if you’re an off-road driver, you need to learn navigation. When you learn navigation well, you become a better driver.”
Being involved in the Rebelle Rally is another way for Pennzoil to show how passionate the brand is about motor ports. Sandlin said it’s in the company’s DNA to be involved with series such as NASCAR and IndyCar, and do more than just be a logo on a vehicle.
“This is what drives us,” said Sandlin. “We get to prove our oils off the track so we can take those learnings and make road cars even better.”
An endurance race in the desert is one of the harshest conditions for Pennzoil to prove its worth.
“To get to see our oil perform in those conditions, we learn a lot as well that we can take back,” said Sandlin. “But really, for us, it’s about inspiring more women to be involved in motor sports, and if we can get the next generation of women to get behind the wheel that’s all Pennzoil needs. That’s the reason we’re here.”
Miller said Pennzoil joining the partnership group helps ensure the Rebelle Rally is a sustainable event for the long haul.
“What I love about the totality of the partnership is our mechanic’s program is unique – you cannot bring your own mechanics team,” said Miller. “You have to work on your own car or work on your car with our pool of mechanics. Last year we trained over 900 people to drive and navigate off-road, and that program you can do whether you’re in the program or not. That’s such an important thing because you should have the skill to take your all-wheel drive vehicle and explore the world. It shouldn’t come down to the experience in the rally.
“Pennzoil coming on now allows us to do more programs. Also, we’re giving the opportunity to young women who want the chance who can’t afford it to be able to come and train.”
Shelby Hall is the Ford performance driver, piloting a Bronco Wildtrak HOSS 3.0. An original of the Rebelle Rally and two-time winner, this season will be Hall’s fifth year in competition. Despite how much harder it is every year, that’s part of what draws Hall, who comes from a desert racing background, back again and again.
“I keep coming back because, honestly, it’s an emotional experience for me,” she told RACER. “I’m really proud of myself in the end, even if I don’t finish where I want to finish, there are so many things I’ve learned, and it’s helped me develop into a professional driver and entrepreneur.”
Of the many unique aspects of the Rebelle Rally is everything a driver and navigator must carry. While digital instruments are prohibited, their rig does include gear, spare parts, fluids, personal gear, food, and even attire for the gala held at the end of the event.
“It’s about organization, communication, precision,” Hall said. “Every day, you have to go back to that list and think, OK, what did I not do great yesterday? That’s a pro of having eight days because you get recuperating time, but every day is a new challenge
Hall said the addition of Pennzoil support to the Rebelle Rally is incredible.
“There are not a lot of women in motorsports,” he said. “I am a professional driver and a female entrepreneur and it’s tough. We have to work a little harder. We can’t give up, and having a company like Pennzoil come on board with a female VP feels like a hug. It does.
“We work hard, we work hard, we work hard, and to finally have someone want to get behind not just the competition side but also the training side, the coaching side, the mechanic side because, in motor sports, it’s all of that. It’s more than the driver. That partnership is next level.”
This year’s Rebelle Rally will take place from Oct. 12 through the 21st.