OpenRoads Rally is a three-day grassroots Off-road Adventure Motorcycle event and navigation training camp held 16-18 April 2021 in Gippsland Victoria where 250 riders will try their skills on three tracks ranging from beginner to advanced level. Riders navigate via a digital road book to find checkpoints. Other activities include an enduro course, barrel racing, presentations and live music.
OpenRoads Rally was started by female motorcyclist Jessica Zahra in 2019. Jessica says she started the event because she found there was no affordable non-competitive roadbook rally available for riders in Australia.
“I’ve ridden for five years now - in some hairy places around the world! – and I wanted to test my skills before committing to expensive, inter-state and overseas competitions. I felt like I might not be good enough to participate, or being a female, I might not belong. But nothing else existed. So I decided to make it”.
In the hopes of gathering a small bunch of people to get together and learn about rally racing, Jessica posted on Australian Adventure Riders Group on Facebook and over 350 people responded. Six months, many hurdles and knock-backs later, she hosted the first OpenRoads Rally and it was a success. In 2020 she partnered with Holmsglen Institute, onboarded a team of seven volunteers (all female) and with one month to go until the 2021 event, is on track to double event attendance in her second year.
Jessica says when asked about her reason for starting the event “The only reason that I do this event is because I want it to exist. If I don’t do it, who will?”
When asked about some of the challenges she has to overcome she explains;
“It is hard doing it alone, and it is especially hard trying to do it as a female alone. Majority of people are supportive that I want to do this. That brings me a lot of joy. They don’t look at my gender. But some people tell me I’m too young or I shouldn’t be doing this because I don’t know how to ride. I’ve been riding and leading tours all over the world on my own, I’m a sponsored rider –I’m qualified. I wonder if they would say that to a man. Sometimes that gets me down.”
Jess speaks about how honoured she feels that people like Andrew Houlihan, Heather Ellis, James Ferguson and Miles Davis are getting behind the event and believe in her.
"Being able to learn from your heroes - it’s inspirational”.
“We are a small business, with no funding, built by a small group of people out of sheer passion, goodwill and love for the sport. But we have amazing sponsors like AMX that believe in us, without their help OpenRoads Rally wouldn’t be possible”.
To follow Jess and see how the event has come together give her an Insta-follow at @jessicazahra
To learn more about the Openroads Rally check out the following;