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2017 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 in its Rebelle Rally debut

por Colin Game (02/07/2020)

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2017 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2

My navigator, Rebecca Donaghe, and I were in Johnson Valley, home of the infamous King of the Hammers rock crawling race. It was the fifth day of the all-female, all off-road Rebelle Rally and we were currently sitting in second place overall and tour trương gia giới leading the Bone Stock division in a 2017 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2.

Perched atop a steep and rocky hill, a blue flag indicated a checkpoint. I took a deep breath, switched to four-wheel drive low and locked the rear axle.

The diesel engine put out plenty of low-range torque as we clambered up the hill. As the terrain became a bit more steep and more than a bit sketchy, Donaghe gave encouragement to the ZR2, "Go, Zelda, go!"

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The Chevrolet ZR2 takes on the all off-road Rebelle Rally


I felt the front wheels slip just a bit as we approached the top, so I engaged the front locker as well. That was all Zelda needed as she neatly crested the hill, awarding us 10 points for getting the checkpoint and a beautiful view of the desert below us.

The Rebelle Rally is a navigational contest that stretches across California, from Squaw Valley all the way to the dunes of Glamis, near the Mexican border. It's not a race for speed, but for accuracy. Modern technology like cell phones and GPS are banned. Instead, all navigation is done with a compass, a topographical map and a ruler.

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Teams can compete in a 4x4 or crossover, chasing three levels of checkpoints. Green checkpoints are well marked with large flags and are designed to move competitors down the course. Blue checkpoints are more difficult, marked by a smaller blue flag or just a blue stake in the ground. Black checkpoints aren't marked at all and teams must use triangulation to determine their position.

Each morning teams are given a set of latitude and longitude points to plot on their maps. Then they decide how they'll drive there. There's no set route, so teams can take whatever dirt road or track they choose. Teams can skip checkpoints, but they must be achieved in order. Once at the checkpoint, teams signal a tracker that sends their position back to rally officials.

At the inaugural Rebelle Rally last year, Donaghe and I headed into the last day in direct competition for the lead, but sloppy time management dropped us down to 11th place. This year in the new ZR2, we were determined to podium.

The ZR2 is perfectly suited to the seven-day, all off-road Rebelle Rally.

Paolo Baraldi

The ZR2 is Chevrolet's off-road ready mid-size pick-up truck. It sports Multimatic spool-valve shocks, Goodyear Wrangler rubber and it's higher and wider than a stock Colorado.  A 3.6-liter gas engine comes standard, but I opted for the 2.8-liter Duramax diesel engine, as the Rebelle Rally is as much about fuel management as it is about navigational accuracy. With an EPA fuel rating of 23 miles per gallon combined, the extra three miles over the gas engine could mean the difference between making it back to base camp or not.

While the Rebelle Rally isn't about speed, the 20 or so checkpoints to find each day mean teams can't dawdle in the desert. Our strategy was simple: Drive as fast as legally possible to give Donaghe time to find the coveted black checkpoints. The Rebelle Rally speed limit on dirt roads is 50 miles per hour.

The ZR2 fit our plans perfectly. The Multimatic shocks are some kind of voodoo engineering magic that I don't pretend to understand. All I care about is the result. We were able to keep a fast pace over all kinds of dirt roads, be it an open and graded dirt road, a whooped-out trail or a silty mess of a track. The shocks kept the ZR2 flat and steady, soaking up whoops and allowing for quick direction change when needed. By the second day of the Rally, other competitors in Jeeps, Land Rovers, even a Ford Raptor and a Ram Power Wagon, knew to pull to the side when they saw Zelda's bow tie in their rear view mirror.   

Rebelle Rally

A magnifying glass is essential to see all the details of the 100,000:1 scale map.

Emme Hall/Roadshow

I had to adjust my driving style get the most out of the four-cylinder diesel engine and the six-speed automatic. While driving off road, it's rare for a driver to be on the throttle continuously. Instead, I had to feather the accelerator to account for little obstacles such as small whoops or bits of rock. The diesel just isn't responsive enough to get the truck back up to speed quickly. Instead the transmission downshifted, the turbo took its sweet time to spool, while Donaghe and I kind of leaned forward, annoyed at the power delay.

I solved this problem by left-foot braking. Keeping my right foot on the throttle to keep the engine in higher revs, I dragged my left foot on the brake. Once we were through the problem area and my foot was off the brake, the diesel engine was ready to go with no hesitation.

This was all fine in the hard-packed sections of the desert, and the 369 pound-feet of torque was welcome on the aforementioned Johnson Valley, where slow-speed rock crawling was the norm. That all changed, however, when I reached the dunes.