Day 3 of the Sonora Rally was a mixed bag of ups and downs for the competitors.  The motorcycles had a surprise land rush start that was announced in the driver’s meeting the night before.  While there was some initial groaning (this is racing, after all), the motorcycle finishers came into the checkpoint fans of the start, and of the day’s course overall.

Scott Whitney, co-founder of the Sonora Rally explains the concept of the day’s racecourse, “We wanted a mass start to get the riders going in a straight line for about 10 miles, it’s an easy line to hold because the landmark is a huge dune.  It was a strategic decision.  We placed the waypoint in an inconvenient spot, directly on the opposite side of the dune as they come up to it.  That meant the riders had a big decision to make – go over the top of the dune or around it.  So as the group approached the dune they would scatter left, right, and straight ahead.”  We’re anticipating the helicopter footage capturing this epic moment…

As finishers checked-in, the dominant theme was how much they enjoyed the terrain – again.  While yesterday was a big dunes day, today’s dunes were distinctly different.  As the course was being developed, Scott Whitney spent hundreds of hours on Google Earth searching out the terrain gems.  Today’s route was one of those gems.  Whitney said, “There is a distinct difference in the dunes today, it’s very roly-poly like a pillow, with very little vegetation, which makes it fun for the bikes. I knew they would have fun today, but I was a bit surprised by HOW much they liked it.  It was a short stage but the riders and drivers didn’t seem to notice because of how much fun they had.”

Sonora Rally 2016: Day 3
Bike riders ready to start Sonora Rally 2016 – Day 3 (Photo Credit: John Rettie)

The battle for top honors among the Dakar Challenge competitors Hengeveld, Ramirez, and Samuels is getting more real. They started the day with their corrected times within six minutes of each other and ended the day at the checkpoint with only a spread of three minutes.  Mark Samuels, No. 4, said, “We battled all day again.  The lead changed about four or five times.  Quinn [Cody] kicked our butt off the line but we all caught up.” Samuels was the first motorcycle to check-in.  Results will tell the final story.

It was a tough day for the four-wheel competitors.  Eight cars started (timed start per usual) and only four finished the stage due to a variety of mechanical issues.  One team even changed the transmission multiple times, putting them out of the race. There was a lot of work being done in the middle of the hot Sonora Desert.  Huge props for the dedication and determination of the chase, support, and rescue crews, even hanging out at a checkpoint takes a bit of stamina out there.

Day four takes the Sonora Rally to the Sea of Cortez resort town of Puerto Peñasco for another day of rallying and an awards celebration.

Sonora Rally 2016: Day 3
Night time is the right time for repairs. (Photo Credit: John Rettie)

Quotes from the Checkpoint…

“That was fun at the start!  But as soon as we got into the bumpy stuff, I couldn’t keep up. [he rides a bigger, heavier motorcycle]  But then we got to the flat stuff and I was on it again.” [he checked in just minutes after the top four riders] – Lyndon Poskitt, No. 7 (moto)

“I felt like a new man today.  It was great.  The dunes are big rollers.” – Daniel Bartolucci, No. 24 (moto)

“That was friggin’ awesome.  I did great today.  No mistakes.  I liked the dunes today more than yesterday.  The shape of them and the route was excellent.  You could keep up your speed and have some fun.” – Ken Wortman, No. 13 (moto)

“So finding waypoints is like a treasure hunt?” – Heard in the bivvy…


Sonora Rally 2016: Day 3
Day 3 Results Pending Penalty Resolution (Photo Credit: Melissa Eickhoff)
Sonora Rally 2016: Day 3
Overall Results Through Day 3 (Photo Credit: Sonora Rally/Melissa Eickhoff)