SS5: The Crusade for Accolades
With a Solid Week of Racing in Mexico Behind Us, There’s Much More than Winner’s to Celebrate
Adventure: an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity.
In a world of smartphones, unemployment checks and Snuggies, Rally Raid is a call-to-action. It’s a catalyst for the quintessential Hero’s Journey which most of us have only ever read about. To those who read at least. It’s an engine-powered spirit quest to find your voice from within the white noise and a path to help reach your limits only so you can reach a bit further. Competitions like the Sonora Rally are both transparent and opaque. Philosophies are clear. The demand, the rewards, the test of mind, heart, and soul. No one who loves this sport is unfamiliar with punishing oneself for passion. Nor about what it takes to reach the finish. On paper. But it’s not about what you think you know. It’s about what you do. The experience you have. And what you subsequently do with that newfound knowledge. The few true mysteries in rally lie in the conditions, fate, and you. Do you arrive at your arch, defeat the villain, and ride off into the sunset? Or, today, do you let it break you?
Stage Five was unexpected. It could have been in the bag. And yet, those 136 kilometers carried weight. Battling all week long for stellar overall positions, and to secure a coveted free entry this January from Road to Dakar challenge, Matt Sutherland (#501, Malle Moto) and Francisco Alvarez (#526, Freedom Rally Racing, Enduro) played leapfrog on course until the bitter end. Even on the final day, either were well in contention to leave Sonora in Second Place and about 20,000 euro closer to Saudi Arabia Sutherland, who hadn’t finished a Sonora Rally in four years, had his trajectory fixed not only on completing the racing but winning not just one but two National titles: Malle Moto and D2D. Both seemed in the bank when he rolled over the start, but that inevitable twist precipitated new results in the challenge. Onlookers saw him ride through the camel grass into Timing & Scoring with the proverbial golden ticket in-hand. Fast, confident, an impressive performance, nonetheless. But a missed WayPoint charged the Australian a devastating 30-minute penalty and robbed him of a free pass to the Dakar Rally. Alvarez seized the opportunity, albeit unconsciously, to move into the Second overall seat and put the golden ticket in his pocket. But it’s not all tears for Sutherland as he was otherwise the better rider on-track of the Malle Motos.
“It’s my second finish, I finished in 2019 and then I had three bad years: 2020 blew up two motors; in 2021 I shattered my collarbone, and in 2022 I had a [deep] cut and had to pull out of the race. [It’s] pretty good to finally [reach] the finish line; it was a long road. To do it in the Malle Moto class is even better. Pretty happy to be here. The racecourse was probably the toughest [this year] than we’ve had [in the past] because we went after all the FIM bikes and cars. Their tracks made it really tough, but it’s all part of it. – Matthew Sutherland #501, Privateer, Malle Moto
With a sizable penalty added on mid-race there was a little doubt Brendon Crow (#512, National Enduro) would come through triumphant. But a combo of speed and accuracy sifted away the competition, all fears of failure faded away. He didn’t even win the stage, Alvarez snuck through that door. But he didn’t need to with a lead of forty minutes. His first taste of rally took place only months ago at the 2022 Sonora Rally, in its original state, because of his (and everyone’s) buddy Skyler Howes (#10, Husqvarna Factory Racing, RallyGP) who’d brought Crow to Mexico to make sure someone would be pushing him every day. Landing Third behind Howes’ other desert racing wingman, the #513 bike came back with more experience, less reservations, and a vengeance. Unfortunately, Howes crashed out of the first half of the race, but his teammate Luciano Benavides (#77) picked up the slack to end the rally on the third step. Rookie from Spain, Tosha Schareina (#68, Honda Team, RallyGP), put in the work and outshone a list of all-stars to shoot into second seed. Red Bull GasGas Factory Racing has much to celebrate, however, as Daniel Sanders (#18) came to this side of the world with little understanding of the terrain he would tackle or what surprises he might encounter. Yet, the Australian adapted and excelled winning the pro moto category in the third round of the World Rally-Raid Championship in 2023.
“Third last year, first this year in the National class, second rally ever. It was a good time, it was tough, it was a lot different this year than it was last year. Changes with making it W2RC round made it a lot different. We started later in the day, and we started later in general. I had mostly good days and a couple of days that were so-so, but I kept the mistakes and penalties to a minimum. That really helped me out. I did well on this final stage today, everything went well, and I’m really happy with how the week went.” – Brendan Crow, #513, Privateer, National Enduro
The last kilometers were in the bag for Daniel Gonzalez and teammate Jorge Hernandez (#604, Baja-Son Motorsports. UTV Pro) who made the best time over his only real adversary on the stage by a little over ten minutes. Finishing at 1 hour and 45 minutes (and change), newcomers to Sonora, Craig Lumsden and Andrew Farmer (#611, TrophyLite, UTV Pro) made their debut with respectable times during the competition. His son Zach unfortunately DNF’d before he could score on Friday, but he apparently learned a lot, noting that his ego was a factor in mistakes early on. His hopes to end with a trophy, let alone a Finisher’s Medal, were thwarted. And while many felt the same sort of sting, missing the mark after so much effort, some were able to realize their dreams, no less hard-fought. Sara Price (#605, Price Racing, UTV Pro), who has been plotting her Road to Dakar victory for the few years she’s been involved in the sport. Even for off-road pros of her caliber, the overall costs of competing at the Dakar Rally are astronomical. And every little bit of help – like free entry to the race – counts, and thensome. And as the Road to Dakar hasn’t been offered to UTVs every year, Price needs to go big whenever that chance comes to fruition. This year, she hit it out of the park, winning several stages and keeping her hold on the general standings with gorilla strength.
“The day was good. It was a hectic day on the course because obviously we had the Road to Dakar on the line. And it was a very hot day, so we were just keeping the temperatures under control. Overall, we just wanted a consistent race to win the Road to Dakar. I’m so stoked, I’m finally getting to go to Dakar! It was my plan, and we executed it. We have an amazing team and incredible sponsors and people surrounding me to make this all happen. I’m just beyond stoked; I don’t even know what to say.” – Sara Price, #605, Price Racing, UTV Pro
Machines – big, small, fast or less fast – had suffered their fair share of setbacks this week, none which seemed to have more to lose in the contest than Sebastien Loeb (#200, Bahrain Raid Xtreme, T1+) who knocked his car out of the running, giving way to adversaries Yazeed Al Rajhi (#202, Overdrive Racing, T1+) and Sonora Rally victor Nasser Al-Attiyah (#201, Toyota Gazoo Racing, T1+). In the T3 category, our hometown heroes on the Red Bull Junior Factory Team all but swept the rankings with first-timers at the race, Mitch Guthrie Jr. (#302) and Austin “AJ” Jones (#301) at first and third seed. And then T4 pilot, Rokas Baciuska (#400) continuing his roll for Can-Am also standing in the Winner’s Circle when the dust settled. In fact, in some way, all the competitors who dare face the Sonoran landscapes this April deserve credit. They won already by crossing well outside the comfort zone into (wait for it…) the danger zone. And yeah, not everyone crossed the finish line. But surely, every person here who did the grind, who woke up before sunrise, struggled through an obstacle, fought themselves – more than anything else – to just keep going earned their right to be the hero of their story. They journeyed to find their inner beast to slay or be slayed. And it was their bravery here which made them all champions.
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill
For more info, make your way to https://sonorarally.com/. To keep in touch with the event, follow them on social media @SonoraRally on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. And watch all the action unfold during the remaining rounds of the https://www.worldrallyraidchampionship.com/en/
Photos by WESTx1000
Ø Nasser Al Attiyah, the reigning world champion, is on his way to regain control of the championship tomorrow in San Luis. He arrived in Hermosillo with a 16-point deficit to runner-up Sebastien Loeb, but he could well leave San Luis tomorrow with a significant advantage. If the Qatari crosses the finish line tomorrow as winner of the Sonora Rally, he will have between 132 and 137 points depending on his result in tomorrow’s stage. A lead of 31 to 36 points, which is a little more than the value of a W2RC victory, which is worth 30 points. Enough to see the next two rounds with serenity and have a sweet memory of Mexico!
Ø In the Sonora Rally, Rodolfo Guillioli showcased his exceptional skills and determination as he triumphed in the quads category’s final stage. Despite his impressive victory, it didn’t alter the overall classification, which was dominated by Laisvydas Kancius, the talented Lithuanian racer who secured a commanding lead of 46 minutes and 31 seconds. Guillioli’s remarkable performance not only solidified his second-place position in the championship but also put him within striking distance of the leader, with a mere 36 points separating them.
Ø The thrilling T4 category of the Sonora Rally witnessed an outstanding display of driving prowess by Rokas Baciuska. Right from the start of the race, Baciuska showcased his dominance and eventually emerged victorious in the final stage, clinching the overall championship title. The Italian driver, Rebecca Busi, and Japanese driver, Shinsuke Umeda, gave commendable performances, securing second and third place, respectively. Baciuska’s exceptional win propelled him to the top of the W2RC championship leaderboard, where he held a significant lead of 189 points, leaving his competitors, Eryk Goczal and Umeda, trailing behind with 86 and 79 points, respectively.
Ø SS5, Puerto Peñasco to San Luis Río Colorado; Liaison > 259 km & Special > 139 km | 26% Sand; 4% Soil; 70% Tarmac
Ø The final stage concludes the first-ever North American round of the World Rally-Raid Championship and the 9th edition of the Sonora Rally. As with all these events, the aftertaste is bittersweet. It’s been such a demanding experience that, of course, teams, volunteers, staff, and media are all ready to go home. Then when it comes time to depart, waving goodbye becomes the hardest part of the week. In the end, our hometown favorites didn’t reach the Winner’s Circle this year – one even sustained an injury. But all in all, despite some confusions with the roadbook, the Sonora Rally seemed not only a success but a platform for us to see new faces on the podium – be it ones we recognize from abroad and those we know from our neighborhoods.
While familiar faces like Daniel Sanders, Nasser Al-Attiyah, Mitch Guthrie Jr., and Rokas Baciuska stood on the podium, it’s the National faces that few of us have had the opportunity to witness on the stand. Local talents like American Brendon Crow who in his second-year racing in Sonora has taken the 2023 victory. Colombian Francisco Alvarez came all the way to Mexico to nab the second-best position, and from across the globe in Zimbabwe, Ash Thixton flew his motorbike into Third. Local desert racing favorite, Sara Price, put her stamp on the event taking the title and securing a free entry to Dakar next January. About forty-five minutes behind followed Mexican Jorge Cano in the overall standings and dominated the Nat UTV class. And Carlos Castro held it down on the final step.
Ø The Pinacate Biosphere Reserve is located in the Sonoran Desert in the northwestern part of Mexico, in the state of Sonora. The reserve covers an area of about 714,566 hectares and was established in 1993. It is named after the Pinacate volcano, which is one of the main features of the reserve. The reserve is home to a diverse range of plant and animal species, including many endemic species that are found only in this region. Some of the notable species that can be found in the reserve include the desert tortoise, the bighorn sheep, the black-tailed rattlesnake, and the Gila monster.
The Pinacate Biosphere Reserve is also an important cultural and historical site, with evidence of human occupation dating back thousands of years. The reserve contains a number of archaeological sites and rock art sites that are of great cultural significance. Visitors to the reserve can engage in a range of outdoor activities, including hiking, camping, and wildlife watching. There are also opportunities for guided tours of the reserve’s natural and cultural attractions. Overall, the Pinacate Biosphere Reserve is a unique and valuable ecosystem that is worth visiting for anyone interested in the natural and cultural history of the Sonoran Desert.
Daniel Gonzalez #604, Baja-Son Motorsports-Polaris Mexico, UTV PRO: “My day went great; I did push a bit harder than I normally do and started to see that red fuel gauge again. That made me nervous a bit. This kept me from the overall top points – I ran out of gas on Wednesday 10 km before the gas truck. I ran strong, tried to keep up with Sara, she’s a very strong competitor and kept me going, huge congratulations to her. I was always in the top-3 besides that stage that I didn’t finish. We tried to defend that championship title from 2022, but we’ll come again in 2024 and try to get that back. My Polaris ran well, I’m really amazed with the machine as I know how much I pushed it. The heat, the sand, the whoops – it gave us no trouble at all.”
Nasser Al-Attiyah #201, Toyota Gazoo Racing, T1+: “We finished Sonora Rally with a nice win. We are leading the Championship, and it’s nice to defend our title. It was an amazing week. Matthieu did an amazing job.”
Matthieu Baumel #201, Toyota Gazoo Racing, T1+: “The landscape was fantastic. It’s not often we see a lot of cacti like that, but the navigation was not easy. The driving, also, was really technically in some places. We’re really happy with Nasser…having maximum points and leading the Championship.”
Luciano Benavides #77, Husqvarna Factory Racing, RallyGP: “The last stage, it was another battle with Toby until the end. Ultimately, we made a mistake, which worked better for me, so I put some time on Toby and earned some good points for the Championship. I’m really happy right now, and let’s try to continue this in Argentina.”
Toby Price #8, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, RallyGP: “It was a rough week. Day One kicked us off really badly, so we’ve just been trying to play the catch up game the whole way through. And once more, a mistake there at the end. I didn’t quite get the right road, and I cut across…I missed the road properly, so it was a little tricky…All in all, we’re here in one piece, and the Championship still looks good, race result not so good, but we’ll keep going.”
Ricky Brabec #2, Monster Energy Honda, RallyGP: “We made it to the finish of another Sonora Rally. This year was a little bit hectic with the FIA/FIM Championship being here, but it’s always a good time in Sonora. Always a good time in Mexico. [I] enjoyed every single day. Unfortunately, we ran into several issues on Day One – and Two – which bummed me out a bit. We couldn’t get on the podium, but like I said, it’s another fun week in Mexico and looking forward to the next Sonora Rally.”
Ignacio “Nacho” Cornejo #11, Monster Energy Honda, RallyGP: “We’re done with Sonora Rally 2023. I’m happy to be back here in this desert. It wasn’t how I was hoping to [perform] in the race; I think I can do better, so I’m hoping to come back here and try to redeem myself. In 2021 and 2023, I haven’t ridden as well as I know I can here, so hopefully I can come back and do better. The race was good, a lot of guys were riding fast, so it was very competitive. But I’m happy to be in Sonora. The people in Mexico are really nice, really passionate about racing, so it was great racing by them.”
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
1. #526 Francisco Alvarez (COL), Freedom Rally Racing – 1:33:46
2. #513 Brendan Crow (USA), Privateer – 1:34:50
3. #543 Mike Johnson (USA), Privateer – 1:44:24
4. #539 Ben Lauderdale (USA), Diespro Racing – 1:47:10
5. #517 Devon Mahone (USA), Diespro Racing – 1:49:46
1. #507 Lance Webb (USA), High Desert Adventures/DUUST – 1:56:04
2. #501 Matt Sutherland (AUS), Privateer – 2:06:38
3. #520 Alexander Kachaev (RUS), Privateer – 2:17:03
4. #510 Hector Guerrero (MEX), Modeci Racing – 2:30:01
5. #521 Benjamin Myers (USA), Privateer – 2:39:44
MALLE MOTO ADVENTURE
1. #528 Ben Howard (USA), Privateer – 4:32:13
1. #604 Daniel Gonzalez Reina (MEX) and Jorge Hernandez Calva (MEX), Baja-Son Motorsports, Polaris Mexico – 1:39:11
2. #611 Craig Lumsden (USA) and Andrew Farmer (USA), TrophyLite – 1:45:16
3. #605 Sara Price (USA) and Jeremy Gray (USA), Price Racing – 2:10:31
1. #606 Jorge Cano (MEX) and Abelardo Ruanova (MEX), Privateer – 1:47:40
2. #612 Carlos Castro (MEX) and Carlos Sachs (MEX), BBR – 1:48:35
3. #607 Brock Harper (USA) and Steven Geist (USA), Privateer – 2:00:22
1. #602 Luis Perocarpi (USA) and Mark Wells (USA), Privateer – 18:20:00
NATIONALS TOP FIVE OVERALL RESULTS
1. #513 Brendan Crow (USA), Privateer – 16:37:36
2. #526 Francisco Alvarez (COL), Freedom Rally Racing – 17:56:38
3. #501 Matt Sutherland (AUS), Privateer – 18:24:08
4. #525 Ash Thixton (ZWE), Freedom Rally Racing – 19:46:22
5. #543 Mike Johnson (USA), Privateer – 19:46:59
1. #605 Sara Price (USA) and Jeremy Gray (USA), Price Racing – 17:14:04
2. #606 Jorge Cano (MEX) and Abelardo Ruanova (MEX), Privateer – 17:59:33
3. #611 Craig Lumsden (USA) and Andrew Farmer (USA), TrophyLite – 19:37:29
4. #612 Carlos Castro (MEX) and Carlos Sachs (MEX), BBR – 20:53:43
5. #607 Brock Harper (USA) and Steven Geist (USA), Privateer – 21:32:38
ROAD TO DAKAR, MOTO
1. #526 Francisco Alvarez (COL), Freedom Rally Racing – 17:56:38
2. #501 Matt Sutherland (AUS), Privateer – 18:24:08
3. #525 Ash Thixton (ZWE), Freedom Rally Racing – 19:46:59
4. #532 Ronald Venter (ZAF), Freedom Rally Racing – 21:39:54
5. #529 Gregorio Martos (USA), Freedom Rally Racing –23:45:22
ROAD TO DAKAR, AUTO
1. #605 Sara Price (USA) and Jeremy Gray (USA), Price Racing – 17:14:04
2. #606 Jorge Cano (MEX) and Abelardo Ruanova (MEX), Privateer – 17:59:33
3. #612 Carlos Castro (MEX) and Carlos Sachs (MEX), BBR – 20:53:43
4. #604 Daniel Gonzalez Reina (MEX) and Jorge Hernandez Calva (MEX), Baja-Son Motorsports, Polaris Mexico – 43:29:34