The Sonora Rally is off to a solid start with Stage One being a loop in the Sonora Desert, just east of San Luis Rio Colorado, Sonora, Mexico. As it was a mix of veteran riders and drivers, and amateur off road racers; it was designed to get everyone used to the unique desert conditions, Rally Raid style navigation, and the technology.  “Today was meant as a ‘test run’ for our competitors, a shakedown of sorts to prepare them for more challenges in the coming days,” said Scott Whitney, co-founder of the Sonora Rally.

One of the biggest draws of this rally is the Dakar Challenge.  It has attracted some of the top desert riders in North America as an incentive and/or transition to the Dakar Rally style of racing.  Many riders have ambitions of competing in the Dakar but as it is a premier challenge in the world of racing, it is just as big of a challenge to gain entry.  The Sonora Rally Dakar Challenge winner gets a free entry for the 2017 Dakar Rally, a prize worth well over $20,000. Quinn Cody, the ASO North American representative, is enthusiastic about helping the Sonora Rally build up to the prestige of races like the Dakar. There are seven entries in the Dakar Challenge this year.

No. 2 Ivan Ramirez
No. 3 Steve Hengeveld
No. 4 Mark Samuels
No. 8 Petr Vlcek
No. 15 John Henson
No. 19 Carlos Yfarraguerri
No. 25 Matthew Glade

Sonora Rally 2016 - Day 1
Daniel Bartolucci, No. 24, California, USA (Photo Credit: John Rettie)

As expected, the Sonora Desert pushed the riders and drivers to their limits.  Dakar Challenger, Carlos Yfarraguerri suffered heat exhaustion, many were struggling with fuel needs, and the dunes proved to surprise even the most experienced.

Overall, riders and drivers alike finished the day with a sense of accomplishment and awe.  Tomorrow will see racers pushing themselves even harder to get beyond the newness of the event into full race mode.

Unofficial Top Finishers:
Mark Samuels, No. 4, California, USA
Ivan Ramirez, No.2,  California, USA
Steve Hengeveld, No. 3 Arizona, USA
Quinn Cody, No.1, California USA

If you don’t believe us… here are some quotes from the riders and drivers:

“Climbing over these dunes, you can’t see, [you have] no idea what’s on the other side, [you’re] hoping for the best when you get over the top.” Jayson Walmsley, No. 58

“That was most probably the most insane experience of my life.”
“The sand dunes are like Mt. Everest.”
“That’s so f*cking cool, I can’t wait to do it tomorrow.” William McBride, G-Wagen, Kraut Racing, No. 55

“I now have an addiction to collecting waypoints, much like the college experiment of rats and cocaine.”  Kent Kroeker, navigator No. 54

Sonora Rally 2016 - Day 1
Quinn Cody, No.1, California, USA (Photo Credit: John Rettie)


Updated on April 6, 2016:
This article was originally attributed to Marsha S. Haneiph instead of Melissa Eickhoff. The error has been corrected and we apologise to Melissa.