Six Toyota employees were faced with a series of demanding tasks, but they would do it all again if they could.
The Rebelle Rally is a grueling eight-day race that takes place in the unforgiving deserts of Nevada and California. It's a tough event that challenges the tenacity and ingenuity of its all-woman competitors.
No team knows this better than Kara Yde and Crystal Mink, who, on the second day of the rally, discovered the off-board odometer in their 2022 Tundra was not working and was in the wrong place. When precision and timing count most, the duo had to make a tough decision.
Yde and Mink decided to fix the device on their own. "We had to take a tire off. We had to install additional sensors. We had to fabricate something to attach the odometer [to] a different location. And we had to reroute the wiring. It took two hours after a long and hot day in the desert. And we were a mess after lying in the dirt under the truck."
It's all the more remarkable when you realize that Yde and Mink are not professional drivers; they're two of six Toyota employees who decided to tackle the demanding rally.
The other two teams Libby Perego and Caroline Koenig in a 2018 Sequoia and Samantha Barber and Becky Brophy in a '22 Tundra - also had to overcome their own obstacles.
"When you're under pressure like that, you quickly learn that you have to be very precise in how you communicate with one another. And I learned that you need to adjust to how someone else needs to hear the information," explained Barber, a senior manager in Strategic Business Planning.
Yde, who has competed in arduous half-ironman triathlons and describes the rally as "long, hot, and tough," notes one has to keep going. "You learn what you are really capable of, which you can then fall back on when you encounter new challenges.
But, despite this, all six women would love to do it again if they could. Mike Sweers is hoping to make that happen. As the automaker's global truck chief engineer - and an off-roading enthusiast - he believes the Rebelle Rally serves as more than an opportunity to show off the strength of Toyota vehicles.
"You need to pair two strong-willed individuals who can work out how to communicate, problem-solve and collaborate under stress. That makes it a tremendous development opportunity for our team members." But team Barber and Brophy managed to work together and bag Toyota's first-ever podium position, with a third-place finish in the 4x4 class.
Yde and Mink finished in 28th place, while Perego and Koenig, in their first Rebelle Rally outing, managed to finish in 32nd position. But success wasn't the motive behind Sweers placing these teams into the motorsport event.
"I know Marketing loves a spot on the podium, but that's not my expectation for these teams," he said. "At the end of the day, did they finish? Did they solve problems? Do they still have a smile on their face? Are they still friends? I think Rebelle is a wonderful event, and I'd like to see Toyota expand on its presence in the future."
The Japanese brand isn't the only automaker to enter off-road vehicles into the Rebelle Rally. Ford entered three Bronco SUVs into the competition, but Jeep proved victorious with its Wrangler 4xe. The off-roader managed to nab first place in the 4x4 class, making it the first-ever electrified vehicle to win the event twice.
It's not the only electrified SUV to take on the rally, though. Last year, Volkswagen entered a battery-powered ID.4 into the rally, finishing in 8th position in its class.