Meet the women who took a standard Porsche on a 2,500 km rally
In at the deep end for two intrepid overland novices
After a solid week of off-road driving, a stock Porsche Cayenne S, dust and grime now covering a once bright orange and yellow wrap, emerges from the desert. Onboard are Abby Bassett and Beth Bowman, exhausted debutantes, and now jubilant finishers, of the 2021 Rebelle Rally.
This endurance challenge pits cars and drivers against the worst that the vast and baking hot deserts of California and Nevada can throw at them. The first ever women’s off-road rally raid in the US, the 2,500 kilometre event blends challenging overland driving with the constant demands of precision navigation, and this year marks the first time that Porsche Cars North America has sponsored an entrant.
The 2020 Cayenne S prepared for Basset and Bowman for the event was fitted with larger, terrain-specific tyres for the loose sand and dirt, alongside mandatory safety and recovery equipment, but otherwise remained entirely standard. The pair nicknamed their car Ruby after its Bordeaux interior, and wrapped it in Gulf Orange, with a geometric pattern laid over Racing Yellow stripes. Suitably dressed for the desert, Ruby was then entered into the X-CROSS™ Class with other road-legal two-wheel or all-wheel drive vehicles with no low-range gears or two-speed transfer cases.
During the Rebelle Rally, Basset and Bowman managed compass and map navigation and hidden checkpoints, numerous 12-hour driving days and an overnight marathon stage. Temperatures in the desert can drop below freezing overnight and top the 100s during the day, which tested the stamina of both the women and their SUV.
"Together, Beth and I pushed more than 2,500 km through cold, heat, snow, rain and sleet, survived a massive sandstorm and scorpions, and earned nearly 1,000 points in our first rally,” says Bassett. “What a wild and amazing thing. From Big Dune to Dumont to Glamis, we were never once stranded, and we even pulled a team out of a tricky spot. Every single morning Ruby purred to life, kept us warm and safe, and did the work without a single complaint or hiccup. Over gnarly rock crawls and super soft washes, the Cayenne performed again and again, that melodious twin-turbo ringing off the canyon walls."
Bassett is a freelance journalist by profession, her long-time friend and co-driver a Tennessee-based photographer, but despite their complete lack of experience, their first foray into off-road rallying saw them finish an impressive seventh.
"For now, I'm grateful, exhausted and still a bit dusty and dirty," smiles Bassett. "I'm shot and still recovering from one of the most challenging things I've done in the last two years, both mentally and physically. At least in our experience, there is a part of almost every adventure where you think, ‘I don't want to do this anymore’, and that is often when you need to push through because some really amazing things are about to happen. Stick with it. Push through. And don’t forget to take some pictures along the way!"
“I love a good adventure and love encouraging women to push their boundaries and realise how capable they truly are,” adds Bowman. “It takes a lot of trust and I am so excited to have shared this experience with Abby. Something tells me we’ll be talking about it for the rest of our lives.”