Not long ago, the Rivian R1T electric pickup engaged in a very public bit of development testing as a support vehicle for “Long Way Up” — the trip Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman took on Harley Davidson LiveWire electric motorcycles from Ushuaia, Argentina, to Los Angeles. Next month, the R1T enters the realm of competition testing by competing in the Rebelle Rally, the all-female navigation rally held over 10 days and 1,243 miles in the sandy, rocky hinterlands of California and Nevada. The team behind the wheel will be pilot Emme Hall and navigator Rebecca Donaghe, who won last year’s Rebelle Rally driving the then-new Rolls-Royce Cullinan.
This is the first year the Rebelle’s five-year history that there will be a pure electric vehicle; the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, which returns this year, was the only previous entrant flying the electrified flag. To welcome the battery-electric pickup and any other EV that wants to join in the future, rally organizers have arranged a battery-powered mobile charging system to be deployed along the course. It’s not clear which battery and motors the Rivian will house, but the top spec would provide a 180-kWh pack, up to 750 horsepower, and a range of more than 400 miles in normal conditions.
The race will help Rivian hone the pickup’s off-road credentials, the brand’s creative director saying, “Adventures like the Rebelle Rally are what Rivian vehicles are made for.” The Rebelle isn’t a timed rally, so the point isn’t to beat up the R1T with marathon stints on the throttle. As a navigation rally, competitors aim to finish stages in the shortest distance traveled. The rules reward point-to-point driving, meaning the ability to clamber over and through whatever’s in the way, a technique aided by the R1T’s height-adjustable suspension that provides 14 inches of ground clearance on its tiptoes. The ability to do tank turns might also come in handy. The Rivian will prove itself by placing, or teach important lessons by falling out. All of this is a necessary step for a manufacturer selling “electric adventure vehicles.”
There are only two classes in the Rebelle Rally, Crossover and 4×4. Crossovers can be two-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, and can have unibody construction but no low-speed transfer case. The 4×4 class is traditional off-roaders with a low-speed transfer case, ranging from the Jeep Wrangler to the Range Rover.
The Rivian will be challenging the hardcore ICE runners in the 4×4 class, and we’re throwing a shoutout to one of them, Team 4 Corners with driver Nena Barlowe and her new navigator Tana White. Barlowe helped prep this writer for a 26,000-mile drive from Los Angeles to the Arctic and back in a Jeep Wrangler a couple of years ago. Barlowe and White were meant to drive the Ram 1500 TRX in the race, which would have been spectacular, but Covid delayed the truck and kiboshed those plans. Instead, they’ll be looking over at the R1T from the longest thing on the course, a Hydro Blue Power Wagon that’s two feet longer than the Rivian and, at 7,300 pounds, probably heavier. On top of that, the Ram doesn’t rise up to 14 inches of ground clearance, it always rides with 14.3 inches of daylight under the chassis.
Hall and Donaghe will be looking for a third overall win, and are good bets to win the electrified division considering the dearth of competition. Barlowe will be looking for her third win in the Bone Stock division. You can watch all the action on the Rebelle Rally’s webcast October 8-17. After that, the Rivian R1T hits the market next June, the R1S SUV coming a couple of months later in August.