A Head Start Out the Gate
With a New Place in the World Rally-Raid Championship, Sonora Rally Welcomes Privateers & Pros Alike to Sign Up (Now)
Photos provided by WESTx1000
North American Rally fans are ringing in the New Year with plenty of excitement that hits close to home, like having its very own navigation race join the World Rally-raid Championship (W2RC). And better yet, the Sonora Rally opens 2023 with their celebrated school February 18th and 19th in San Luis Rio Colorado.
It’s known as a training ground for such star athletes as Ricky Brabec, Skyler Howes, Andrew Short and Mason Klein on bikes plus Casey Currie, Sara Price and many more in side-by-sides, offering the best environment we have available to prep for the international circuit. And this hands-on two-day intensive not only provides the basics to newcomers, but it also challenges intermediate and veteran racers to solve problems and resolve issues they may never have faced before. If education is the key to success, then Sonora Rally’s roadbook course is the key to navi refinement.
But the big news doesn’t finish with a chalkboard. For those primed and ready to participate in the real deal rally experience, signups for the next edition of Sonora Rally are NOW OPEN as of January 16th, 2023. This iteration of the event comes with several lower-cost Open categories – non-FIM/FIA – like the Enduro (up to 525cc) and Adventure (over 525cc) class, both requiring between 120 and 150-kilometer range. Four-wheeled in the same genre include Stock UTV, Modified UTV and Open UTV. And as an interesting offer to local desert racers, SCORE International Series legal Cars will be allowed to run in the FIA T1.3 classification with the following required FIA safety gear: air restrictor of 38mm, FIA fuel tank, seatbelts, seats, fire system, rear lighting and external shutoff switches. These conditions were put in place to allow a wider range of contenders to enter on the World Championship level, while also providing a quality, well-round experience for North American racers who helped build this event into what it is today.
Organizers are also proud to bring back the Road to Dakar for another year, this time extending the opportunity to the UTV classes as well. Racers in both the bike and UTV categories will be welcome to participate in this challenge for a chance to win a coveted free entry to Dakar 2024. As always, only contenders who are not participating in the World Rally-Raid Competition will be eligible to compete. And no one who has already raced the Dakar Rally may enter. Many Sonora Rally alumni have won this prize and made history overseas performing beyond expectations in South America and, now, Saudi Arabia. Just these past weeks, the infamous race saw more North Americans than ever at the starting line – most of whom have attended the Sonora Rally.
Skyler Howes shined each stage, leading the General Standings most days of the 15-day event. This effort meant a podium finish, in Third Place, for the Utah native. The American Rally Originals – dead-set on being the first riders from the USA to finish in the Malle Moto class – plus Petr Angelo Vlcek put in the work with Mo Hart (of ARO) and Angelo breaking the record as the only Americans to ever cross the finish line in the Originals by Motul category. Last but not least, Jacob Argubright was stellar in Rally2, finishing 8th amongst his peers and 24th overall. Side-by-sides had their fair share of successes as well, with Austin Jones Jr. becoming victorious for the second time in a row, this time in the T3 class. His teammates Seth Quintero and Mitch Guthrie Jr. trailed just a bit behind him in the results, but volleyed stage wins between the three of them each day.
Finishing the Dakar in 2020, Kyle McCoy was eager to dive into the saga of such an infamous race. And what he found was startling. Now realizing that no American, in 43 years, had ever finished, let alone won, the Malle Moto class, he set out to create an all-star team of grassroots riders to break some long-overdue records. And so, the American Rally Originals (“ARO”) were born. Their goal is no small feat. Evidently, the US barely has a presence the grueling “Original by Motul” class, yet these five men – McCoy, Paul Neff, David Pearson, Jim Pearson and Morrison “Mo” Hart – each intend to reach the proverbial checkered flag, in arguably the most difficult division of Dakar.
“It will be an amazing moment when the green flag drops on the 2023 Sonora Rally with all of North American stars welcoming the world’s best rally-raid stars to Sonora.”
– Darren Skilton, Race Director of the Sonora Rally
The world is buzzing at the prospects of all these top teams making the long trek to Mexico to compete in a new round of the W2RC. And now the global media has a bit more insight on what to expect in April. In a conference December 30th, on the eve of the 45th Dakar Rally, Skilton was proud to present the Sonora Rally to the sport’s international elite in Saudi Arabia. To a full crowd, he touched on the history of Sonora and the event and revealed the beauty of racing in these remote Mexican regions. And it was apparent that Darren, along with his team back home, are excited to show a whole new group of passionate rally-raid athletes and fans the magic that awaits them in April. Considering W2RC’s recent announcements, we’re sure to draw several countries South of the Border in 2023.
Upon a new era for off-road racing in North America, the World Rally-Raid Championship announced a “dream lineup” for the 2023 season. In its second official year, the W2RC continues to attract all-star athletes and manufacturers around the globe. In fact, every major bike and car rally team has confirmed their entry to the series, so we can only assume Mexico will have an interstellar glow this April! Not excluding those promising grassroots contenders sure to shine in Sonora. But for the first time, we’ll be seeing T1 cars take on the Grand Altar, captained by legends of the sport, like Peterhansel, Sainz, Ekström, Chicherit, Al Attiyah, Loeb and Al Rajhi.
And while the T3 and T4 categories are predominantly occupied by the New Generation, a handful of them will be waving the American flag. With new technical alliances, the side-by-side classes will be facing off in a battle of brands between Polaris, Yamaha and Can-Am. Whereas the FIM classification features all of riders and manufacturers involved with RallyGP, so the tension should be carried across both sports. Sonora will be jam-packed with talent this Spring, and this new development is sure to (finally) have Americans wondering what rally-raid is all about. Where will you be during Sonora Rally 2023?