Honda Associates Participate in All-Women Off-Road Navigation event

Using only compasses and paper maps, two teams of Honda R&D Americas, Inc. associates navigated to a top five finish in the Crossover Class of the 2018 Rebelle Rally, the first women’s off-road navigation event in the United States.

The Ohio-based “Ridgeline Rebels” team #209 of engine test engineer, Maria Guitar, and vehicle safety test engineer, Michelle Klein, drove their 2018 Honda Ridgeline to a fourth place finish. The California-based “Desert Dreamers” team #208 of product planner, Ariel Jen, and senior fabricator, Melanie Morimoto, navigated their 2019 Honda Pilot to a fifth place finish.

The Rebelle Rally is a hybrid of serious competition and the ultimate road trip, spanning over eight days of competition and 1,700 miles across the deserts and backcountry of Nevada and California. It’s not a race for speed, but a unique and demanding event where the teams navigate from checkpoint to checkpoint – within set windows of time – using only compasses and paper maps.

“The 2018 Rebelle Rally proved to be an incredibly tough event mentally, physically and spiritually, and the Honda teams did a fantastic job driving their vehicles each day,” said Emily Miller, Rebelle Rally founder. “Both the Pilot and the Ridgeline teams handled each situation professionally, intelligently, and with positive spirits throughout. It was impressive to watch, and we congratulate them and Honda for putting their associates to the ultimate authentic test.”

Demonstrating Honda’s “Challenging Spirit”

As first-time Rebelle Rally competitors, the Honda associates demonstrated a relentless challenging spirit as their navigational accuracy, driving prowess, time management, and endurance were tested.

“On a daily basis, I felt we were living out the Honda core value of the Challenging Spirit,” said Maria Guitar, engine test engineer, Honda R&D Americas. “We drove and navigated across different terrains, proving to ourselves and everyone who was watching what the Honda Ridgeline and Pilot were capable of. We pushed ourselves in so many ways, whether it was picking a smart line to drive through the terrain or working together as a team, we grew each day in our abilities.”

Ariel Jen, product planner for Honda R&D Americas, was also proud of her team’s resilience.

“There would be times where I’d be absolutely terrified, but we just had to go for it and do something because there was no other option,” said Jen. “When it’s just you out there with nothing else, and things go wrong, you can’t dwell on the problem. You need to figure out a solution and move forward.”

Empowering Honda Associates

Support for Honda’s first-time Rebelle Rally competitors was a company effort that involved more than two dozen volunteers in California and Ohio. Since preparing for and participating in the Rebelle Rally provided the associates with valuable knowledge and growth experiences in their R&D roles, Honda management agreed to sponsor both first-time teams. Honda supported the associates’ initiative through funding, vehicles, shop space, training opportunities and technical expertise.

“Participating in the Rebelle Rally showed me that there is freedom in taking risks, failing, and learning from your mistakes,” said Michelle Klein, vehicle safety test engineer, Honda R&D Americas. “As Mr. Honda said, ‘Instead of being afraid of the challenge and failure, be afraid of avoiding the challenge and doing nothing.'”

Showcasing the Honda Pilot and Ridgeline’s Rugged Capability

The 2019 Honda Pilot and 2018 Honda Ridgeline remained mostly stock for the rally event, with light modifications for additional durability and safety performance. These modifications included custom skid plates, extra ground clearance, off-road tires, and an interior modified for extra storage of spare tires and other equipment. Both light trucks feature Honda’s highly advanced Intelligent Variable Torque Management™ (i-VTM4™) all-wheel drive system.

“The feedback we got from everyone was how surprised they were by the way the Pilot performed,” said Melanie Morimoto, senior fabricator, Honda R&D Americas. “We got really off track a couple of times and ended up in some extremely rough roads more suited to 4×4 vehicles. The Pilot was a solid ride on the roughest roads.”

Added Klein, “With the Ridgeline’s Sand Mode and capable suspension, we were able to cross steep river beds, climb rocky hills, and have a comfortable ride.”

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