A Sketchy Stage Two Made the Serene Backdrop of the Sonora Rally Even More Stunning
The sun came up gently this morning. As the longest transfer of the Sonora Rally, it was an early start for everyone, and participants had the pleasure of a Mexican sunrise with an incredible seaside backdrop. Light shone through a thin veil of dust, kicked up by the passing fishermen. It sparkled as the camel-colored granules fell softly back down to earth. Almost as a compliment to the shimmering air, the ground – be it mineral or a millennium of broken glass – too had a sort of sparkle to it. Gold flakes in the dirt were so prevalent that it seemed as if the heavens emptied a bag of glitter on the floor. This was only matched in impact by the diverse terrain and colorful flora. Saguaro mixed with all types of bizarre, but resilient, succulents, bushes and sparse trees, providing such a rich blend of green, charcoal grey and the occasional pop of bright flowers. Jagged peaks hid this oasis from the rest of the region and from the top, magic seemed to slide down the face across the dense garden and into the salty waters. Starting the special on the Seri Nation reservation, teams indulged in a calm, serene view of the Sea of Cortez – a body of water famous for its whale watching and sport fishing.
But don’t let her fool you, Sonora can be as cruel as she is beautiful. Alluring in her features, but unforgiving, no matter how much you grovel and plead for a little mercy. If she wants to teach you a lesson on respect, you will be taught, whether that’s just at the beginning of your race or just before the finish. She will have her say in the matter, and her tongue is sharp. Even after the stage was cut short into a seemingly leisurely day along the Sea of Cortez, some riders still suffered the scorn of a tempestuous landscape. Sadly, within the first 25km, Sam Sunderland (#1, Red Bull GasGas Factory Racing, RallyGP) suffered a crash after around km18, with a moderate injury to his leg. He wants everyone to know he’s okay, but it’s still the end of his race. Another great disappointment was for our favorite mustache, and its own, Skyler Howes (#10, Husqvarna Factory Racing, RallyGP), who also sustained an injury in an off-bike incident. He likewise is insisting his shoulder won’t keep him out of service for long. Defending champion and figurehead of the Sonora Rally, Howes will be sorely missed these final days. A few others had similar encounters early on as the possible perils seemed to be crammed into the first quarter of the route. But those who were observant enough, took caution in the early stretches and avoided the same fate. While others just took their lashings and carried on.
“A few ups and downs… I started on the gas – even though I swore I wasn’t going to – and crashed at KM 20 into the bushes then, of course, damaged my wrist. After an hour or two, I finally stopped and wrapped it, took ibuprofen and after that it was okay! Swelling went down, speed came up, and it was a good day. I didn’t like the road section, but the rest was fun. Thankfully, they shortened it! We got into the wild beds and a lot of sand today. The rally cars really turned it up, and it was a lot of work going in. But it was fast, flowy, good time! Looking forward to tomorrow.” – Michael Myers, #541 M2 AV Consulting, National Enduro
**RallyGP & T1+: Special Stage Three offered some twists on the tale. The Sonora Rally didn’t just plan a full sprint from start to finish (you can go to Baja for that). While you can’t ever really categorize a world championship pace as slow, there were at least a few triple dangers on the menu to keep pilots from shoveling kilometers in their faces. This trick didn’t work on most of the factory riders so much, the obstacles hardly took a toll on the slender (by comparison) and nimble rally bikes. But at a cost. Many riders, who are used to staying on the limiter, found themselves in sketchy, if not dangerous situations from the get-go. But those who held back a little, surveyed the environment and decided they wouldn’t beat that section with speed, ended up on top. Daniel Sanders (#18, Red Bull GasGas Factory Racing, RallyGP) did just that, and how he’s holding the title for SS2 in Rally GP just ahead of Tosha Schareina (#2, Honda Team, RallyGP) and Ricky Brabec (#2, Monster Energy Honda Racing, RallyGP).
Considering the narrow roads and lowered visibility, the Autos were forced to heed the warnings a bit more deliberately. The T1+ class saw some impressive performances from top-level off-road racers. Sebastien Loeb (#20,0 Bahrain Raid Xtreme) emerged victorious, followed by Nasser Al-Attiyah (#201, Toyota Gazoo Racing) in second place. Marcos Baumgart from X Rally Team rounded out the podium, demonstrating his driving skills in a highly competitive field. Two-time W2RC Champion and Dakar Rally winner, Austin “AJ” Jones (#301, Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team, T3) also displayed strength on-course, fighting against his teammate Mitch Guthrie Jr. (#302) for the top step. He ultimately took a lower place than had hoped, but this only adds to the value of the overall total standings in the long run. And that’s what Daniel Gonzalez is likely banking on as well. He and co-pilot Jorge Hernandez (#604, Baja-Son Motorsports-Polaris Mexico, UTV Pro) have been steadfast with their achievements here at the rally, and albeit they haven’t won a stage yet, this fact doesn’t directly contribute to a triumph in the general standings. Unless you’re Sara Price (#605, Price Racing), and you decided to just win every stage. Perhaps the odds will be in your favor. Or, maybe you’re cutting your teeth at your first rally? Whatever the case, Special Stage Three was the perfect set for an unforgettable battle.
“#It was awesome today, a great track, a great course. It was a little bit more technical. I felt very fast and very good at it. Shannon Moham did a great job co-driving for me and making sure I didn’t fall into any big holes. It was my first time at Sonora Rally. This is a great place, I’ve never been out in this part of the world and this is great – the atmosphere, the camaraderie as well as the competition.” – Zach Lumsden, #610, TrophyLite, UTV Mod
By the halfway mark, the UTVs seemed to have clumped together, creating a sort of high-speed parade along the coastline. And the hard-packed dirt made it much easier to see the spectacle than in the fesh-fesh they endured in SS1. The quintessential high-strung whining from each side-by-side sang out in unison, stressing the cars’ “vocal cords” in an attempt to squeeze out every drop of power to in their way forward, faster. It was the fight we’d all been waiting for since we heard the World Rally-Raid Championship was coming to town. Ultimately, the dust settled with Sara Price in UTV Pro, Jim and daughter Sienna Price (#608, Price Racing) for National UTVs, Erick Pucilek (#601) in 2WD and Luis Perocarpi (#602) in 4WD at the top of the dog pile.
Maybe about 30 kilometers from DSS, still short of the final turn away from the water, Brendan Crow (#3, National Enduro) was completely alone. He bested his Enduro comrades by at least ten minutes at one point, a feat for such a short course. But the next motos kept a closer distance between them with Francisco Alvarez (#526, Freedom Rally Racing) hot on Crow’s trail, Matt Sutherland (#501) just behind him holding onto the Malle Moto title. But somehow, the story changed heroes before the final chapter, and there are now some new names on the leaderboard today, and a couple old ones as well… Despite a two-minute penalty, Gavin Ferguson (#540, M2 AV Consulting), who returned after a several-year hiatus from the rally, won the stage – and he edged out the two faster guys in the National group to do so. Those fellas being Crow who took Third and Ash Thixton (#525, Freedom Rally Racing) who stepped back up to Second. After them, the gap extended again with groups of two to four traveling in close quarters. Unlike FIM, bikes in the National classes were neck and neck, for much of the shortened course, which likely helped during the tougher sections of nav – assuming the guide was savvy with a roadbook. But in the safe zones, throttles opened wide again and the atmosphere switched to the kind of high stakes tension you’ll find at Supercross.
For more info, make your way to https://sonorarally.com/. And to follow along with the race, stay tuned @SonoraRally on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, plus, download the Sportity App for schedule, news updates, press releases, results, and more. Event code: SonoraRally2023
For news from the World Rally-Raid Championship, visit their website: https://www.worldrallyraidchampionship.com/en/. Watch Stage One of the third round of the W2RC here. Media inquiries can email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to be added to the press contact list for updates, news, and more.
Ø In the FIA cars, Sebastien Loeb, nine-time WRC world champion with six victories in Mexico during his previous career, sought to blend into the local scenery like a snake camouflaged in the cacti. He showed up at the start this morning with the famous Mexican moustache, as his teammate Guerlain Chicherit had done before him. And it worked! the Frenchman won and tonight the lead of the race… for only 3 seconds on Nasser Al Attiyah after 3h03m16s at full speed.
Ø The Sonora Rally featured several notable performances on its stages. Rokas Baciuska dominated the T4 category, winning by large margins over Eduard Pons and Rebecca Busi. Baciuska now holds a nearly 20-minute advantage in the overall classification. Meanwhile, “Chaleco” Lopez edged out Mattias Ekström to win the stage, with Mitch Guthrie finishing close behind. Ekström ultimately took the Sonora Rally, finishing with a 1:55 lead over “Chaleco” and 2:21 over Guthrie. In another stage, Sebastien Loeb came out on top, finishing 2:45 ahead of Al Attiyah, 3:13 ahead of Marcos Baumgart, and 3:33 ahead of Cristian Baumgart. Loeb’s strong performance allowed him to take the lead in the overall standings by just 3 minutes over Al Attiyah.
Ø In the Special Stage Two, Daniel Sanders of GasGas came out on top, finishing with a 1:15 lead over Tosha Schareina. This should put Sanders in the overall lead by 21 seconds over Schareina when he reaches the bivouac in Puerto Peñasco. Despite being pursued by their competitors, the two young riders who opened the morning performed well. Without bonuses, only Ricky Brabec and Toby Price were able to match Schareina in terms of pure speed. Sanders, however, was untouchable and dominated the stage. In the overall standings, Brabec took third place ahead of his Monster Energy Honda teammate, Pablo Quintanilla, with three Hondas trailing Sanders.
Ø During SS2, Sam Sunderland, the reigning world champion, suffered a crash at kilometer 24 of the stage. The Red Bull GasGas Racing rider sustained bruises to his knee and nose and is currently receiving treatment. He will be evacuated to the start of the stage. This is another tough setback for “Sundersam,” who previously had to withdraw from the Dakar 2023 after a fall in stage 1 and suffered another crash just before the second round in Abu Dhabi, preventing him from participating. Additionally, Skyler Howes, the Sonora Rally title holder, also crashed at kilometer 18 of the special stage, resulting in a shoulder injury. Howes, a Husqvarna Factory Racing rider, will no longer be participating in the 2023 Sonora Rally due to this incident. A huge loss for all of his North American fans.
Ø SS2, Hermosillo to Puerto Peñasco; Liaison > 157.5 km & Special > 286 km | 24% Sand; 39% Dirt; 22% Tarmac; 2% Dry Lakebed
**Please note, these numbers changed due to the shortening of the Special**
Ø Stage Two was shortened due to unforeseen circumstances and to ensure maximum safety for competitors. The start of the special was also postponed by one hour. The first FIM rider started at 7.30 am, the first FIA team at 9.00am, local time (GMT -7).
Ø Tomorrow, racers will enjoy another loop stage, which means less liaison, more action. But if we think it’s been slippery up to now, the racers are in for a treat (if that’s what you can call it). While they aren’t the biggest here in Sonora, teams will finally face some real sand. From dunes to arroyos to seaside beaches. It’s sure to be a slip ‘n slide for these guys. Stage 3 Liaison > 71.6 km & Special > 217.1 km
Ø The Seri Indians are an indigenous people who inhabit the Sonoran Desert in the Mexican state of Sonora. The Seri people have a long history of living off the land, hunting and gathering along the coast and practicing a unique form of agriculture in the desert. They have traditionally lived in small, mobile groups and have a deep connection to their natural environment. Today, the Seri people face numerous challenges including economic marginalization, loss of land and resources, and cultural assimilation. Despite these challenges, the Seri continue to maintain their cultural traditions and their way of life in the harsh desert environment.
Ø In the 1960s, a group of scientists visited Isla Tiburon in Mexico to study the Seri people who lived there. While walking along the beach, they found a pile of shells arranged in a circular pattern, which the Seri explained represented the island and its surrounding waters. The scientists were impressed by the Seri’s deep understanding of the natural world and the interconnectedness of marine life. This anecdote highlights the importance of preserving the cultural and ecological diversity of Isla Tiburon and respecting the traditional knowledge of its inhabitants.
Ø Punishment. This is what it felt like for many pilots on this stage. Not only was the navigation tricky in the morning, but there seemed to be an endless string of triple danger notes in the roadbook (with sharp banked turns and giant crevasses as evidence). Others were a result of fate or poor maintenance. A few teams endured mechanical issues which slowed them way down on an otherwise short special. One rider wasn’t so lucky, and what he believed to be problems with the fuel injector ultimately spelled the end, and Weston Carr (#509, High Desert Adventure/Duust) DNF’d. Patrick Reyes suffered some mechanical issues when a soil sample took out his Rally Comp, completely throwing off the tracking system and his scoring. While it might have seemed like a day full of mechanicals, there were plenty of penalties in general – thanks to a number of disregarded Speed Zones.
Austin “AJ” Jones #301, Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team USA, T3: “Today, we ran stage #2 out here at Sonora Rally. It was a really good day, really fast tracks all day, lots of really dangerous and treacherous stuff in the beginning. So you definitely had to keep your head on your shoulders. The rest of the fay was very tight, lots of cactus, not a lot of room or air, dusty in some places. It was a really nice day, I enjoyed it, a lot of nice high-speed stuff and a lot of good technical stuff, and for me it was perfect, I had a good day. I think we finished P4, that’s good with me, got a couple of minutes back on the lead, Gaines some positions, I’m happy. It’s so fun to be down here in Mexico, scenery is beautiful, I really like the track so far.”
Sébastien Loeb #200, Bahrain Raid Xtreme, T1+: “It was a good day, and we took the win for Bahrain Raid Xtreme and for Prodrive. No problem at all. I tried to take a good pace from the start even though the first kilometers were really tricky, a bit dangerous even, so I was a little cautious, but after that it was a nice stage. Very narrow in some places and not easy to get through the cactus with a big car but at the end we kept that pace right to the finish. We took the stage so now we open tomorrow but for today, it’s a great result.”
Ricky Brabec #2, Monster Energy Honda Team, RallyGP: “Day 2 started out good with many dangers, we rode as safely as possible but with speed to make some time up but we also lost time to the end. Navigated well but it was difficult to understand the time opening bonus. Sometimes almost not really a fair advantage but it is what it is. Team is working hard, and we will do what we can for the next few days.”
Konrad Dabrowski #23, DUUST, Rally 2: “Today was really nice, for the most part I enjoyed it a lot. It’s my first time in Mexico, I’ve never seen cacti so big, it looked like a cacti forest, really something I’ve never experienced. Even though it was a bit stressful, not to crash into one of those, it was really nice, really beautiful, it made up for my lack of pace at the moment. I had fun, and I really enjoy exploring this new country. The route was very nice for the most part apart from the beginning, the first 30-35 kilometers. I don’t know if it was good to put us there at all, the biggest thing is that I think the dangers should’ve been marked a lot better. I’m sorry for Skyler because he crashed, and I hope he’ll get better soon, and Sunderland also crashed… I think it’s too sketchy and too dangerous for us and should be marked better. But apart from that, I’m really enjoying the trip, it was very nice, and I can’t wait for the next few days to come.”
NATIONALS TOP FIVE STAGE RESULTS
**These results are provisional and not final. Please refer to the event’s channels for final results. If you would like to view the Provisional Results for the W2RC, use the Sportity app with codes: FIAsonorarally2023 / FIMsonorarally2023
- #540 Gavin Ferguson (USA), M2 AV Consulting – 2:07:21
- #525 Ash Thixton (ZWE), Freedom Rally Racing – 2:12:10
- #513 Brendan Crow (USA), Privateer – 2:13:13
- #527 Juan Recio (MEX), Freedom Rally Racing – 2:17:18
- #526 Francisco Alvarez (COL), Freedom Rally Racing – 2:23:37
- #501 Matt Sutherland (AUS), Privateer – 2:22:15
- #521 Benjamin Myers (USA), Privateer –2:38:42
- #508 Matthew Glade (CAN), RMS – 2:56:44
- #542 Paul Mumford (USA), Privateer – 3:16:50
- #514 Vladimir Malyarevich (BEL), Privateer – 3:59:27
MALLE MOTO ADVENTURE
- #528 Ben Howard (USA), Privateer – 4:28:46
- #605 Sara Price (USA) and Jeremy Gray (USA), Price Racing – 2:16:21
- #604 Daniel Gonzalez Reina (MEX) and Jorge Hernandez Calva (MEX), Baja-Son Motorsports, Polaris Mexico – 2:19:27
- #610 Zach Lumsden (USA) and Shannon Moham (USA), TrophyLite – 2:34:33
- #611 Craig Lumsden (USA) and Andrew Farmer (USA), TrophyLite – 2:49:01
- #608 Jim Price (USA) and Sienna (USA), Price Racing – 2:23:30
- #606 Jorge Cano (MEX) and Abelardo Ruanova (MEX), Privateer – 2:25:38
- #612 Carlos Castro (MEX) and Carlos Sachs (MEX), BBR – 2:32:11
- #607 Brock Harper (USA) and Steven Geist (USA), Privateer – 2:33:17
- #609 Camelia Liparoti (ITA) and Tony Albano (USA), Avid UTV/CAT Racing – 2:46:25
- #601 Erick Pucilek (USA) and Mike Shirley (USA), Privateer – 18:30:00
- #602 Luis Perocarpi (USA) and Mark Wells (USA), Privateer – 3:24:15
- #603 Bruce Myrehn (USA) and Dan Fargo (USA), Privateer – 9:30:00