Using only a compass and a map, Honda Test Engineer Liz Casteel ’14 navigated a brutal course across 1,500 miles of the desert Southwest in last year’s Rebelle Rally to capture third place and rookie of the year honors with her driving partner.
The eight-day, women-only driving and endurance competition took them from California to the Mexican border, but for Casteel the journey began thousands of miles away in the engineering department at Grove City College.
Liz Casteel ’14, right, and teammate Tasha Krug won rookie
of the year and third place in the 2019 Rebelle Rally.
She studied mechanical engineering and was a member of the College’s Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Club for three years, where she helped build and race Baja cars in an intercollegiate design competition run by the society. “Racing the Baja cars sparked my interest in off-road racing and automotive engineering as a career.”
Growing up, Casteel’s father was in the military and her family moved often. With each move, her parents encouraged her and her brothers to look forward to the next adventure. That attitude led her to earn a degree from Grove City College, win a coveted job with Honda R&D Americas in Columbus, Ohio, and represent the company in the 2019 Rebelle Rally.
The rally is a unique and demanding competition based on reaching hidden checkpoints across a 2,000 km course. It values navigation and driving strategy, not necessarily speed. Casteel was part of the team that prepared Honda’s vehicle for the 2018 Rebelle Rally and was ready when the leadership baton was passed to her and co-worker Tasha Krug for the 2019 competition.
“I just felt like it would be the ultimate challenge and vehicle adventure,” she said. “Rebelle Rally is not a cushy drive through the desert. It challenges you on so many levels – mentally, emotionally and physically.”
With no phones, electronics or GPS allowed, Casteel and Krug relied on a compass, a roadbook and a 2019 Honda Passport to trek across the desert in October. Over the course of the race, they were up every morning at 5 a.m. to pack up their camp site and start driving by 7 a.m.
“When we got lost in one time-speed-distance challenge, I did the most stressful, quickest, in-my-head math I’ve ever done in my life, and it paid off. Experiences like those helped us see the importance of taking a step back and regrouping. Every day you learned something new about yourself,” Krug said.
Their efforts earned them the spotlight in a recent Honda media campaign for Women’s History Month. “She drives us forward,” is the tagline.
Casteel’s legacy at Grove City College includes the SAE Baja car that was her senior design project. It is a little old now, but still used when the team is allowed to compete with two cars, according to Dr. Vernon W. Ulrich, SAE advisor and professor of Mechanical Engineering. “It has won a couple of trophies over the past several years. This past fall it finished 14th of out 90 cars against division one competition in Louisville,” Ulrich said.
Grove City College’s Department of Mechanical Engineering provides a broad yet thorough foundation, expert faculty mentors who care about your professional and personal well-being, the opportunity to study abroad, and freedom to find your unique place in the field as a purpose-driven engineer.
For more about Mechanical Engineering at Grove City College, visit www.gcc.edu/mece.
To see Casteel and Krug in action at the Rebelle Rally, click here.