Dream Cruise: Bronco targets Jeep for Rebelle Rally off-road glory

Henry Payne
The Detroit News

Royal Oak — Bronco is going racing, and it’s a long way from Woodward stoplights.

Ford’s off-road sub-brand unveiled three Rebelle Rally weapons Thursday on Woodward ahead of Saturday's Dream Cruise for this fall's brutal, eight-day, 1,200-mile competition across the western U.S. The Bronco will be seeking to dethrone Jeep at America’s most famous women-only rally.

Pro racers Shelby Hall (right) and Penny Dale will lead Ford Bronco's assault on the Rebelle Rally in a 2021 2-door Bronco.

Wrapped in a racing livery that recalls the first Bronco to win the Baja 1000 in 1969, a two-and-four-door Bronco will compete in the 4x4 class. A Bronco Sport will compete in the X-Cross class.

Accomplished pro driver Shelby Hall and navigator Penny Dale will headline the 4x4 class entry in the 2021, truck-based Bronco two-door SUV. They teamed up to win the X-Cross class in a unibody-based Bronco Sport last year. Professional off-roaders Melissa Fischer and Cora Jokinen will drive a '21 Bronco Sport in the X-cross class this year. Rebelle rookies Kathryn Reinhardt and Victoria Bundrant complete the entry in a 4x4 class Bronco four-door.

Hall is the granddaughter of off-road legend Rod Hall, who won the 1969 Baja 1000, off-roading’s premier event, in a stock Bronco. She has been extensively involved, along with other off-road pros, in helping launch the Bronco as it goes to war against Jeep Wrangler’s formidable adventure reputation.

The 2021 competition is part of a Bronco brand push to expand the off-road demographic.

Bone stock. The 2021 Ford Bronco will compete in the Rebelle Rally across 1200 grueling miles with minimal modifications.

“When you think of off-roading, you think male,” said Jovina Young, Bronco Sport brand manager. “But women want to get out there, too. The Bronco and Bronco Sport offer more accessible vehicle for the outdoors.”

The Bronco has been lauded in media reviews for its updated features including a rotary-dial-operated transfer case shifter, digital displays — even its easy-to-remove doors and roof.

“But we’ll be keeping the doors and roof on for the Rebelle,” laughed Hal. “It’s too dusty out there.”

The Bronco two-door is a Wildtrak model with full, tree-chewing, 35-inch-tire Sasquatch package. The Bronco Sport and Bronco four-door are Badlands. The racing livery is also inspired by the Bronco 4600 beast that will run in the King of the Hammers ULTRA4 stock class.

Might need a spare. The 2021 Ford Bronco 2-dorr competes in the Rebelle Rally off-road.

The Rebelle Rally is sold out this year with 50 entries. The Bronco teams will start Oct. 8 near the Hoover Dam, winding their way across Nevada and California to finish Oct. 16 at the Imperial Sand Dunes in California. By the rulebook, vehicle navigation electronics are disabled as the rally is as much a navigation challenge as it is a mechanical test.

“We’d love nothing more than to podium a Bronco and a Bronco Sport at the same time,” said Young, who competed in a Bronco Sport last year. “This is such a great event to showcase what Bronco and these women off-roaders are capable of in the harshest conditions.”

Professional off-roaders Melissa Fischer (pictured) and Cora Jokinen will drive this '21 Ford Bronco Sport in the X-cross class this year.

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at hpayne@detroitnews.com or Twitter @HenryEPayne.