HOUGHTON, MI– October 21, 2017
On the final day of competition in the 2017 Rally America National Championship, driver Keanna Erickson-Chang announces the formation of a new team with co-driver Claudia Barbera-Pullen. Erickson-Chang and Barbera-Pullen began their partnership early in 2017 and throughout the season have competed together at five of eight Rally America events and at an additional rally with the American Rally Association. The team name refers to the duo’s hyphenated last names, which have been a point of jest throughout the year.
“A new rule regarding names has been suggested– only one team member can have a hyphenated name from now on because it screws up the start order sheet”
With the return of River City Rally - RCR, you won’t see Erickson-Chang and Barbera-Pullen together quite as often on the stages, but the women have their sights set on something big: the Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles du Maroc. The ladies-only rally raid is directly following the Rally in the 100 Acre Wood and takes place over a two week period in the Moroccan Sahara, of which nine days make up the competition.
After the first few days, where Erickson-Chang and Barbera-Pullen will end their days returning to camp at the nomadic village, or ‘bivouac,’ back-to-back marathon legs will put them to the test. Only manual navigation with a plotter and compass is allowed. The checkpoint coordinates will be provided alongside black-and-white maps produced in the 1950s; technology is strictly forbidden. While the public will be able to follow their progress online, the Gazelles’ contact with the outside world will be negligible, as incoming emails are simply printed for the competitors daily.
Keanna stated, “I have been so excited to see this event come together as quickly as it has. Less than a month ago, competing in this rallye was nowhere near reality. We still have a lot to do, but it has only taken three weeks to turn this idea into reality.
“I’ve been following this event for years now, but with running such full racing programmes throughout the past four years, the topic of the ‘RAG’ was always much more of a pipe-dream than an actual possibility.
“I actually received a last minute request to compete in last year’s edition, but the partner they wanted me with had to decline. With just around a month to the registration deadline, I tried to make it happen but simply couldn’t secure a partner in time. I’m glad now, because I have been able to talk with some of the amazing women who have competed in the rallye before. I feel much more prepared going into the 2018 edition and am so glad I can do it with Claudia!”
The women are far from ready, but are confident that they will be by the time the rallye begins in four-and-a-half months. In the coming months, the pair will undergo intensive navigational and off-road driving training, as well as recovery techniques. You can follow their progress @overhyphenated on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, as well as online.