“As a marketer on Bronco, I knew I had to be authentic in the message,” said Young, who was quick to seek out Martin as a teammate. “I knew there were going to be a lot of people buying the Bronco or Bronco Sport who had never off-roaded before. We were creating things to help them get into it. Our whole idea was to help the novice have as much fun as the expert. That was a key engineering philosophy. I thought, ‘I’ve got to put my money where my mouth is.’ So I raised my hand.”
“No one at Ford had ever done this before,” she underlined. “We would never use our own employees, let alone ones who’ve never even off-roaded before. We always hire professional racers.”
Before they knew it, Young and Martin, equipped with a gleaming new eight-speed, 250-horsepower Bronco Sport, were among 36 driver/navigator tandems between the Rebelle’s 4x4 and X-Cross divisions, guiding street-legal, stock vehicles over demanding terrain from Lake Tahoe to San Diego. Along the way, they were tasked with hitting anywhere from 10 to 20 checkpoints per day, eventually meeting up with the rest of the field at night in base camps.
“I knew that the Rebelle Rally progressively got harder every day with the navigation, the driving, the terrain we were hitting,” said Young. “The first day, it was nerves, nerves, nerves. It started with the tech inspection, where they make sure you know how to navigate. We studied hard. Once we got past that, it was, ‘Oh, my God. We’re literally going to take off on the starting line tomorrow!’”
One of the Fearless Fillies’ first on-course tests came on Day 4. The route sent the teams from Ridgecrest, California through the Trona Pinnacles and Death Valley en route to the Dumont Dunes. The Marmot-sponsored duo got stuck in the sand, only to be rescued by fellow rookies Erin Vogel and Sara Swenson of Team Ponderosa.
On Day 5, upon entering the Johnson Valley, home to the largest off-highway vehicle recreation area in the country, Young and Martin braced themselves for the ominous red mountains, dry lake beds, and sandy washes they had heard so much about from the engineers at Ford. This was the ultimate proving ground.
“We even stopped at the sign in the road to commemorate being there,” Young recalled.
Team Fearless Fillies plotted a coordinate that took them to the base of a steep, rocky incline. But after more than an hour of searching, they still hadn’t spotted the checkpoint. It wasn’t until Martin scampered up a nearby hill on foot that she noticed a blue steel rod jutting out of the sand in the distance.
“I see it! I see it!” she shouted, jumping up and down.
They jumped back in their Bronco Sport and, holding their collective breath, tackled the incline with purpose, navigating the jagged rocks along the way, until they reached that elusive checkpoint.
“We were so proud that we didn’t give up on it, and that we actually scaled such a steep climb,” said Young. “I never would have done that on my own.”
Photo Credit: Rebelle Rally