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Honda takes its light trucks off-road racing

Company to enter two rookie teams in women-exclusive 2018 Rebelle Rally

Published: August 17, 2018, 6:30 PM
Updated: August 25, 2018, 1:53 AM

Rebelle Rally Honda Pilot

Honda R&D America’s will be entering two rookie teams in the 2018 Rebelle Rally women’s off-road navigation race, piloting lightly modified a 2019 Pilot and 2018 Ridgeline.

Rebelle Rally Honda California team - Honda R&D Americas, Inc. (HRA) associates (left to right) advanced product planner Ariel Jen and exterior stylist Lili Melikian, with their Honda Pilot, make up the California-based Desert Dreamers.

Honda saw the long-distance off-road endurance rally as an event that would showcase and test the prowess and reliability of its light trucks in extreme conditions. The company approved the entries (a first for Honda), seeking to provide project members with the opportunity to gather valuable knowledge and experience growth in their R&D roles.

Teams are made up of a driver and navigator, with Torrance-based advanced product planner Ariel Jen and exterior designer Lili Melikian piloting the new Pilot, while Ohio-based engine test engineer Maria Guitar pilots the Ridgeline with vehicle safety test engineer Michelle Klein. The teams are supported by more than two dozen volunteers from Honda’s departments in California and Ohio, offering the vehicles, technical expertise, funding, shop space and training opportunities.

Rebelle Rally Honda Ohio team - Honda R&D Americas, Inc. (HRA) associates (left to right) crash test engineer Michelle Klein and engine test engineer Maria Guitar make up the Ohio-based Ridgeline Rebels.

The vehicles are mostly stock, lightly modified with off-road tires, skid plates, auxiliary lights and other changes to accommodate off-road equipment such as jacks and an onboard compressor. The Pilot also had its ride-height increased.

“I love to challenge myself and learn new things and the Rebelle Rally seemed like a perfect opportunity to accomplish both goals,” said Jen. “It’s a way to learn more about the world of off-roading and trucks and further unite women at Honda to accomplish something amazing.”

Rebelle Rally Honda participants - Honda R&D Americas, Inc. (HRA) associates (left to right) engine test engineer Maria Guitar, crash test engineer Michelle Klein, exterior stylist Lili Melikian and advanced product planner Ariel Jen.

The Rebelle Rally was created in 2016 by off-road racer Emily Miller as a means to open up the adventure and challenge of off-road racing to women. This year’s event starts Oct. 11 in Lake Tahoe, California and covers about 2,000 km over the mountains and deserts of California and Nevada, finishing up in Southern California before an awards gala in San Diego.

“I wanted to create an exciting and challenging experience for women that wasn’t branded pink,” said Miller. “I feel the Rebelle Rally does just that and serves as a badge of honour participants can be proud of.”