The 2017 Sonora Rally came to a completion in San Luis Rio Colorado on Friday, as Ricky Brabec led the rally from start to finish, winning all four special stages. Injuries to fellow Honda riders Joan Barreda and Steve Hengeveld limited the competition, but that didn’t alter Brabec’s approach to the rally. “You are really racing against yourself out here, against the terrain,” he commented. “I’m much more familiar now with open up a course than I was back in January at Dakar when I had to do it for the first time.”
Honda swept the podium, with Mark Samuels finishing second and Supercross veteran Andrew Short coming in third. Samuels secured a free entry into the 2018 Dakar Rally at the Sonora Rally by winning the Dakar Challenge, a category that he finished second in last year. “The hard work of getting to Dakar is still ahead of me,” Samuels noted, “but I will do everything in my power to make America proud.”
While the lead bikes were celebrating on the podium in San Luis Rio Colorado by early afternoon, the situation for the four-wheeled competitors was quite different. Few managed to finish the final stage of the rally within the time limits, as man and machine was put to the test, navigating through the huge Altar Dunes. The only UTV to complete Stage Four was the Polaris RZR of Dave Sykes and Scott Steinberger. Though they finished after the cutoff time, the team’s tenacity was enough to allow Sykes to repeat as the UTV winner. He dedicated the win to prior navigator Ramsey Elwardini, who passed away unexpectedly last year.
The car category was incredibly close at the 2017 Sonora Rally, with the overall winner unknown until the trophy was presented at the awards ceremony at the San Angel hotel. Todd and Kyle Jergensen had used what they learned at the 2016 Sonora Rally to jump out to an early lead, in contrast to Eric Pucelik and Mike Shirley. The latter had difficulty applying their experience on bikes to four wheels, but proved to be quick studies and never gave up. The final stage decided the rally, with Pucelik and Shirley besting the Jergensens by a mere ten minutes after nearly 20 hours of competition. “After suffering a hard roll we made the decision to up a few waypoints and take the time penalties,” Kyle Jergensen recalled, “now I wish we could go back and get those points. You don’t know at the time how important they could really be.”
The Sonora Rally is the only event of its kind in North America. The rally raid format requires street legal vehicles to transit along untimed “liaison” sections and timed “special stages” over multiple days, with the lowest combined time winning the event. Now in its third year, the Sonora Rally realizes the vision of founders Scott Whitney and Darren Skilton to bring a world class rally raid event to our shores.