02 February 2018

Southern California business owner, adventurer and busy mom Deborah Najm, recently completed her second all‑women Rebelle off‑road rally in her Land Rover LR4.

Here she explains the appeal of trekking seven days and 1,200 miles across some of Arizona and California's most‑challenging off‑road desert trails

How did you decide to purchase the LR4?

Back in 2014 I was looking to replace my Mercedes‑Benz GL450. I wanted something as capable off‑road as my husband's Jeep, yet something a little more spacious and luxurious that I could take the kids to school in. We quickly decided on a new Land Rover LR4 but felt a Certified Pre‑owned model would make more sense as we'd be doing lots of off‑roading. We found a 2012 Land Rover HSE Lux model here in Southern California. It was perfect.

What was your first off‑road event in the vehicle?

When we were buying our LR4, we asked the sales person if he knew of any off‑road events we could take part in, and he gave us a flyer for an upcoming Western National Land Rover Rally in Sedona. We love Sedona, so said 'why not?' It ended‑up being a great event, with fun people, and a perfect opportunity to put our LR4 to the test, and for me to improve my off‑road driving skills. Amazingly, we ended‑up finishing runner‑up in the competition.

You then signed up for the inaugural Rebelle Rally in 2016. What was the appeal?

This was America's first all‑women's off‑road navigation rally. It involved 36 teams and covered more than 1,200 miles of desert driving over seven days, starting in Lake Tahoe and ending‑up on the Glamis sand dunes in Southern California. No paved roads, no cell phones, no GPS. Just a compass, maps and a road book. It was an amazing challenge. It was all about women empowering themselves to step out of their comfort zone and show how capable we truly are. This was a super‑competitive group of women, each determined to do the best they could.

What was your experience like during your first Rebelle Rally?

It was, without doubt, the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. It pushed me in ways I never expected. I have done Ironman competitions in the past, but after six hours you're done. Here it was seven days, and you're pretty much competing 24/7, because even when you get back to base camp, you are up late planning and preparing for the next day. I would say we did okay, finishing in the middle of the pack. I knew I could do better, so pretty much straight away I signed‑up for the 2017 Rebelle.

How did that go?

I felt I really learned a lot in the first Rebelle about myself and how far I could push the LR4. Also, rather than sharing, I did all of the driving in 2017 which gave Amy (Martinez), my navigator, the chance to completely focus on the route. We ended‑up improving our standing to 18th, but got 20 percent more points than the previous year. The real highlight was tackling the extreme trails in Johnson Valley, in San Bernadino County. We were crawling up these huge rocks and all I could think of was not getting high‑centered or damaging the Land Rover.

How did the LR4 hold‑up?

It was remarkable in both Rebelle rallies. Nothing broke, no systems failed, nothing fell off. We didn't even have a puncture, and remember this is my daily driver that I use to take the kids to school and help in my day job running my company. The only modification we made for the rallies was to fit bigger 18‑inch wheels and more aggressive Falken Wildpeak tires, but we were indebted to our friends at Jaguar Land Rover Anaheim Hills, part of the Rusnak Auto Group, not only for some major sponsorship, but for their amazing technical support. General Manager Sven Larson, and Quincy Armstrong, Rusnak's director of marketing, could not have done more to help us.

Are there any future rallies you have planned for your LR4?

I've already signed‑up for the 2018 Rebelle Rally next October. I had to, it's way too much fun. At some stage, I'd love to take part in the Rallye Aicha des Gazelles, in Morocco, the original all‑women off‑road rally that inspired the Rebelle. Otherwise I'm looking forward to taking the LR4 on more off‑road adventures with my family.