As the sun rose over Roy’s on Route 66 in Amboy, California, the Rebelle Rally competitors faced another long day that would see them navigate through the Mojave Desert and into the Imperial Sand Dunes in southeast California, also known as the Glamis Sand Dunes.
During the daily morning broadcast, hosts Emme Hall and Matthew Johnson mentioned that temperatures hadn’t cooled very much overnight, which meant sleep was difficult for everyone at the rally. Thursday’s drive took the women further south towards the dunes of Glamis — and, eventually, towards the culmination of the epic 10-day navigational rally itself.
Emily Miller, founder of the Rebelle, outlined a 175-mile mixed route (it includes some distance over pavement) that started with another On-Route Enduro and had a few optional checkpoints scattered along the way to keep things interesting.
There were 19 potential checkpoints to plot, around which the Rebelles had to plan their route. Regardless of their choices, however, the path was long — so long that competitors had to change the declination of their compasses just to stay on track.
I arrived to the final base camp at the Imperial Dunes just as the competitors arrived at the finish line. The mood was joyful and full of excitement, as the Glamis Dunes are often the course that competitors look forward to the most.
There were, however, a few long faces.
While a handful of the competitors were glad to be back at the dunes they’d trained on earlier, driving here can be tricky. Navigating the sea of sand is a real challenge, especially on long transit days like Thursday. In fact, during the evening broadcast, Matthew Johnson said it took the crew 7.5 hours to drive from Amboy, CA to the final basecamp, even though Johnson and the crew used a route mapped out by Miller and her expert team.
By the time competitors arrived to the dunes, they were already tired. Miller had provided an optional X-route up the famed Oldsmobile Hill. She noted that fuel management was going to be an issue throughout the day since competitors would have to travel far.
And time management would be an issue, too, because competitors have to be sure to collect checkpoints during open and close times. If teams miss a green checkpoint, for example, they can’t collect more checkpoints until they move to the following green checkpoint along the route. This can leave a large number of unclaimed points on the table and can really shake up the standings.
At the close of Stage 6, the 4X4 class had Team 188 leading the pack. This team is made up of Laura Wanslass and Maria Guitar, who led the 4X4 class despite struggling in their Jeep after its battery came loose and, ultimately, needed to be replaced. Still, the team scored 94 percent of potential points on the field.
Sliding into second place at the end of Stage 6 was Toyota’s Team 152, made up of Becky Brophy and Samantha Barber. The two drivers are now on their second run at the Rebelle Rally, but are competing in the 4X4 class for the very first time. Last year, they were both the top rookies in the X-Cross class.
And sliding into third was powerhouse Team 129 of Nena Barlow and Teralin Petereit, who are backed by Jeep. They fell to third place after capturing only 91 percent of the day’s available points. While they slid down the board for the day, they still lead the 4X4 class in overall standings by more than 30 points.
In the X-Cross class, the Ford-backed Team 200 of Chris Benzie and Melissa Clark continued to dominate, scoring 92 percent of available points at the stage. They were closely followed by Team 203, made up of Karisa Haydon and Trista Smith, who scored 86 percent of available points. And, finally, third in the X-Cross class was Nissan-backed Team 216, whose members are Lyn Woodward and Sedona Blinson.
There’s no question that the dunes of Glamis loom large in the minds of the competitors — as the latter portion of an exhausting trial — at the end of Stage 6. But the end of the Rebelle looms, too, as the rally enters its final day. Every competitor left on that field knows the ruthless dunes can make or break the standings. And that upcoming Friday would bring the heat, figuratively and literally, with temperatures in the area set to spike over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
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