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Sonora Rally 2023: FIA-FIM WORLD RALLY-RAID CHAMPIONSHIPS READY FOR A HISTORIC FIRST IN MEXICO

  • After visiting Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi, the W2RC is heading to the Americas for the next two rounds. The next stop is Mexico, where the Sonora Rally will take place from 22 to 28 April.
  • It is a key milestone for both the W2RC and the Sonora Rally, which was added to the FIA and FIM calendars ahead of its ninth edition.
  • The North American local scene will go toe to toe with the international elite, while the W2RC will make its first foray into uncharted territory and meet a new community in the world of off-road racing. It will be a full-blown cultural melting pot.

A NORTH AMERICAN ODDBALL

The Sonora Rally saw the light of day in 2015 as the vision of two desert and rally raid enthusiasts. Darren Skilton, a co-creator and current director of the Sonora Rally, was already a Dakar veteran with nine car starts under his belt, an experience that inspired him to launch a Dakar-style multi-stage rally raid in the Mexican state of Sonora. A race with multiple stages, a road book and no assistance between the start and finish of each stage came as a breath of fresh air for the North American scene. Across the border in the United States, the home of the SCORE International and the National Hare and Hound Series, courses with signs and refueling manned by service crews were the standard.

As early as 2016, the team reached out to ASO to enable new types of drivers and riders to discover the Dakar, which threw its doors wide open for the North American community. The three American riders competing in RallyGP this season, who honed their skills in the Sonora Rally, are a shining example of this enthusiasm. Ricky Brabec stands out as a four-time winner of the motorbike race (2017, 2019, 2020 and 2021), a record for the event. The Honda factory rider was the first American to clinch the Dakar motorbike category (2020) and soon inspired a new generation led by Skyler Howes. A two-time winner of the Sonora Rally (2018 and 2022), the title holder in the next round of the championship finished on the podium of the Dakar a few weeks ago. Last but not least, Mason Klein was the breakthrough performer of the 2022 Dakar and went on to claim the Rally2 World Cup in the same season. The rider, a diamond in the making by KTM who is discovering RallyGP this year, has taken part in the Sonora Rally twice before.

SONORA, A WILD LAND OF REBELS

Sonora, the second largest state in Mexico, lies in the northwest part of the country, between Chihuahua to the east and the Sea of Cortez to the west, across from the state of Baja California, which lent its name to the most famous desert races in the United-States. To the north, it borders the US state of Arizona. The show will get on the road in the heart and capital of Sonora, Hermosillo, home to 700,000 people. It is one of the hottest states in Mexico, with the mercury often shooting up north of 40 °C (104° F).

The rally has established a strong identity, in line with its logo, which portrays a man wearing antlers. It honors the Deer Dance, or Danza del Venado, a native dance from Sonora and one of the most popular traditional dances in Mexico today. It reenacts a deer hunt to honor the land that sustained the defiant Yaqui and Mayo peoples of the Sonora region, who have fought several times over the centuries to keep their lands safe and their traditions alive.

Schedule

  • 22 April: administrative and technical scrutineering in Hermosillo.
  • 23 April: prologue in Hermosillo.
  • 24–28 April: 5 stages between Hermosillo and San Luis Río Colorado.

Darren Skilton, Sonora Rally Race Director:

“The organization is moving flat-out on preparations right now, and we’re excited to be welcoming a whole new group of people to Mexico and to Sonora. We feel the landscape is not going to disappoint, and teams are going to find out how demanding some of the terrain as well as the navigation will be. They will likewise discover some of the unique characteristics of this country. For those new to Sonora, it’s going to be a learning experience…and even for the veterans. This is going to be a tough rally, especially for the amateurs, but that is part of what makes up the challenges in this type of racing. So, that’s a good thing! Even people who have competed in other editions of the Sonora Rally in the past will be discovering new terrain, seeing things for the first time which they had never seen before at this event. We have a pretty inspiring competition in store for everybody, I think.”

Chris Leone

A veteran of the motorsports industry (both physical and digital), Chris Leone contributes coverage of race events of all types to Off-Road Racer. Elsewhere, he is the marketing/communications manager at iRacing, media director of Jim Beaver's Down & Dirty Show, and a frequent contributor to UTV Underground.