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Sonora Rally 2017 - The Competitors


Well-Known Member
So I thought it might be interesting to start a thread about the details of the competitors and the vehicles in the 2017 Sonora Rally Raid.

Details like who the teams are, what they are driving, specific rally raid modifications they have made to their vehicles and bikes and what their goals are This will provide a baseline for interesting dialogue within the forum and for those of you watching the tracking this year. It would be helpful to the current and future teams as well. What are the opinions as to the best car for the Sonora? What crossover vehicles from other racing disciplines will fare the best? Who are the people sponsoring rally raid in North America? Lets share something about ourselves and then maybe we can learn something valuable when the results come in.

I believe that the Sonora Rally Organization will have some sort of tracking in place this year but I'm not exactly sure.

I've seen that in addition to many of last years field, some seriously experienced USA teams have signed up and will be competing on the 4 day course. It will be interesting to hear their thoughts about the course and the event when all is said and done.

All I can say is don't expect a cake walk and some parts are downright brutal.

I hope the rest of the teams join in on this.

So I'll begin.

We are GelandeVentures and we race under the banner of Kraut Racing. The driver is James Opel, firefighter/paramedic/family man. The navigator is William McBride, antiques restorer/ranch manager. We are both from New Mexico, USA and are Mercedes Benz off road vehicle enthusiasts (G Wagen and Unimogs). We are total newbies to offroad racing. Last year's Sonora Rally got us totally hooked on rally raid.

Our mechanical sponsor is OCD Custom Cycles and Auto Repair; owners are Marc Beyer and Frances (Franny) Sayre. Marc is a top Mercedes Benz mechanic in North America holding a Meisterbrief from his study and formal apprenticeship at Mercedes in his native Germany. Frances keeps the business and Marc in a proper state of organization. They are also one of the leading BMW/European motorcycle performance shops in the country. We are honored and blessed to have them on board. They come to the race to provide bivouac mechanical service.

Our crew chief is Phillip Tupelu, backed up by his wife Sherri. They give us love and work tirelessly to make sure we are ready for the next days stage.

Our support and technical advice team is extensive and spans several continents. We have the minds, resources and support of the members of ClubGwagen.com, a leading G Wagen enthusiast group in North America and abroad. They advise on every aspect of our build, via our forum and many will likely show up to help us at the rally.

Our sponsors include ATL, Overland Motorsports, OCD Custom Cycles and Auto Repair, Big Resolution Graphics, Foster Creative, Speigler Brake Lines, DieselMeken, OFGear, Crazy Beaver, Traction Jack, Viking Offroad, RackStash, Custom Craft Auto Collision, Carlos Garcia, Titus Pullo and several more. Basically, our campaign is a real community effort.

Our car is an 1988 Mercedes Benz short wheel base G Wagen, built to FIA T2 specs (Argh!) with the influence of the 1983 Jacky Ickx Dakar winner and the 1987 Purdue Chicken Dakar G Wagen. We have built it specifically for the Sonora Rally. Last year it was an 230ge (4cylinder gas, 125hp, 140ft/lbs toque) - extremely reliable but way underpowered. This year it has been made into a eurospec homologated G Wagen model with a Mercedes OM606 superturbodiesel with performance and tuning by Dieselmeken out of Norway (dieselmeken.se). He is the top Mercedes diesel pump tuner on the planet. Transmission controls are by Ole Fejer of Denmark (OFGear.dk). Our horsepower will be in the range of 250-300hp with torque exceeding 500 ft/lb - depending on our adjustments/tuning. We weigh in the 4Klb plus range (yes, G wagens are heavy). We are mildly tuning and super cooling this motor in hopes to gain reliability and longevity.

Our G Wagen has a reinforced ladder frame and full FIA spec cage, trussed axles, and reinforced suspension in the key areas as per FIA specs, Fox triple bypass shocks and bumpstops, 44 gallon fuel cell, oil, transmission and fuel cooling systems. We have factory front, center and rear locking differentials, engagable on the fly and in any combination we choose (ie. we can run fully locked in high or low range, front, rear or center or any combination). The drivetrain technology is old, circa 1979, yet still used in its basic form on 2017 G Wagens. Solid axles and coil springs front and rear, basically a seriously heavy duty suspension comes stock on the G, being military vehicles first and foremost.

Our extraction gear is Traction Jacks (4), Crazy Beaver shovels (2) and possibly a winch, we're still pondering that and a Pullpal - we're already wired and set up for a winch front and rear but it is alot of weight so we'll see what the conditions and stages look like this year. We also have an snatch strap. And we have onboard air.

Our navigation equipment includes two TerraTrip 303 computers (redundant) with remote reset for the navigator and remote odometer and speed displays for the driver, one ICO Rally Max G (just for the largest digital CAP (compass) display on the market) plus all the devices required of the organization. And the roadbook.

Last year we finished the course, last of the cars, and everybody - dead last! Yet first in the T2FIA 4wd class (there were only two of us in the T2 FIA class and the other competitor's car didn't make it to the finish - I heard it was an engine into the radiator). We tore the panhard rod off of the frame (an improperly done mod) 35km from the finish and had to do a repair and limp in... but we made it across the line under our own power and to the awards ceremony. Every day was epic and we had the time of our lives.

Our goal for 2017 is to win it all, or win a stage, and realistically we would be very happy to just finish again, and do a little better than we did last year. If we have a problem and have to tap out our plan B is to help out at the bivouac, help the other teams if necessary and/or the organization on the course..

So that's us. Wish us luck!

Can't wait to see what the rest of you bring.



Desert Dog

Dakar Finisher
Nice write up William - good to know the back story of the teams. Good luck!

Dirty Harry

Well-Known Member
Thanks for sharing! I am not racing but I am hoping to go cover the race this year. I've been to Dakar twice with Darren Skilton, he is the one who got me hooked on rally raid.

For the record, I don't think 4000 pounds is particularly heavy (but I'm sure it felt like it with 125 horsepower).


Well-Known Member
Indeed it did and for exactly that reason! I actually need to make a correction to that weight. We put the car on wheel scales yesterday following our engine transplant and it now weighs 4500#. Fortunately it is a perfect 50/50 split front to back and shifts to the rear when we get in the car. We were afraid we would be nose heavy so that was good news for us.

Hope you make it. It will be nice to hear some Dakar stories.


Black Pearl Racing will be returning for 2017. We will once again be competing in our 78 chevy prerunner. We are the only team to finish the rally in a 2wd front engine vehicle. We had a taste of sucess on day 4, with a stage win. Looking forward to this years challenge!

Pee Wee

Well-Known Member
Team Jeepspeed will be showing up with this Heep which has won everything I care to win except this race and DAKAR.
Navigated by Skyler Gambrell who just happens to have won DAKAR in the right seat and I'll be the one behind the wheel getting yelled at. Looking forward to it.


Well-Known Member
2-Time Baja Rally UTV Champion Bob Jones, with navigator Larry Dysert,will be competing in the 2017 Sonora Rally with the RMJ Rally Sports Polaris RZR 1000.

Bob Jones (Jasper, Alberta) has been involved with motorsports for 35 years, and is an expert motorcycle rally racer, having competed in world rally raid events in Ecuador, Morocco, and Tunisia. In 2015, Bob switched to 4 wheels to compete in the 2015 Baja Rally winning the inaugural UTV Class, and followed that victory with another in the 2016 Baja Rally. Teaming again with navigator Larry Dysert (Camas, Washington), also an accomplished motorcycle racer, the team is looking forward to the challenge of the 2017 Sonora Rally.

Bob and Larry will be supported by Harry Taylor (chief mechanic), Robbie Nuttall (mechanic), Janet Jones (logistics), and Kate Lamothe (photography).

The team is sponsored by:
Midstate Power Sports - Redmond, OR
Precision Concepts - British Columbia, Canada
Freedom Powersports - Alberta, Canada
Peak Investments

Larry and Bob at the finish of the 2016 Baja Rally


El Mamito USMC

Well-Known Member
hey NM neighbor , what part of NM? and good luck on the event.. wish I could make it to one of those events


Well-Known Member
El Mamito,

Come on down and join us! I live in Santa Fe and James lives in ABQ. Our build is taking place in SF at the moment. Lemme know if you want to drop in and check it out.

Sonora is perfect this time of year and it's warm. Help is needed al throughout the bivouac and during the day. This event and sport is unique and will blow your mind.

What part of NM are you from?


Dirty Harry

Well-Known Member
If I am not a competitor can I still post in this thread?

I am coming down to shoot photos and cover the Sonora Rally in my Tacoma with my buddy Brian (another New Mexican). I first met Darren Skilton seven years ago when I rode with him in his MAN truck at the Dakar Rally. That was my first exposure to rally raid and I was immediately hooked! I have been back to the Dakar Rally twice since then (once with Darren in 2012 and once with RDC in 2016) but a conflict kept me from attending the Sonora Rally last year. This year though I am looking forward to seeing old friends and making new ones.