Would a KOH car work well in Rally Raid?

Dirty Harry

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Short answer is... we are going to find out!

The much longer answer is that I have been curious about this for quite a while. I have been fortunate enough to go to Dakar a few times with Darren Skilton, and I also went to the Sonora Rally as media two years ago. I was there when the Jergensens made a wrong turn and ended up in a gnarly ravine for a couple of hours. They had added a winch and sand anchors to their truck based on what they learned in 2016, but it still took a while to get back on course. I remember thinking "we would have just driven right through that in Ben's car without slowing down".

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Dirty Harry

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I navigate for my friend Ben Swain in King of the Hammers and we have had pretty good success, with Top 25 finishes in 2017 and 2018. I have heard people on RDC say "Shannon Campbell should race Dakar!" and I think that is pretty lofty since these cars are made to drive over anything but are generally worn out after a few hundred miles, and the occupants are as well! I wouldn't want to to Dakar in Ben's Jimmy's 4x4 car, it is too hot, too loud, and too cramped to live out of for two weeks. That is assuming that we could ever even afford to race in the Dakar Rally! The Sonora Rally seemed a lot more obtainable.

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Dirty Harry

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The next step was convincing Ben that this is something we should do. He is based out of Colorado and hasn't raced in Mexico before. The Sonora Rally is only six weeks after King of the Hammers too, which doesn't leave much time for prep. I started by showing him and his girlfriend photos from my last trip to the Sonora Rally and lining up friends who would come help us at the rally.

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I like the size of the Sonora Rally, while it has grown this year you never get lost in the fray. Darren and Scott and Rodo know that most of the competitors are new to rally raid and do an excellent job explaining the differences from traditional desert racing. I also like that you camp in the bivouac with the other teams and help each other out rather than just going back to your hotel or motorhome at the end of the stage.

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Plus there is the food! And the culture. And racing someplace new. All of these are really compelling reasons for me, it was just a matter of convincing Ben that he would enjoy it as well.
 

Dirty Harry

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Ben was interested but still not ready to pull the trigger, so we went to the rally school for the Sonora Rally in December. This was intended as a warm up for guys like Skyler Howes and Cole Potts that were heading to Dakar, but it allowed Ben to get a feel for the area and the event with minimal investment. He flew in and out of Yuma and I picked him up in my Tundra. This was definitely the best money we have ever spent on racing, it was cheap and we learned a ton and had a lot of fun.

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Of course this class was incredibly valuable for me as well, particularly considering that I had never navigated in Rally Raid before! I think that I am a decent co-pilot, but much of that I owe to taking the time to prerun and mark dangers ahead of time in Baja and the Hammers. Since that isn't an option for rally raid I really appreciated the opportunity to get familiar with the Rally Comp device and learn to read a road book in a low pressure environment. Getting tips from guys like Johnny Campbell doesn't hurt either...

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Dirty Harry

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The training was super valuable to both Ben and I so he was interested, and then I sweetened the pot by offering to pay the entry fee if he got the car all prepped and down to the event. That sealed the deal, the final piece of the puzzle was to get some FIA-compliant 37-inch tall tires instead of the 40s we run at King of the Hammers. Ben has been sponsored by Pro Comp for a few years now, I will confess that I tried to talk him into switching to BFGs when we started racing together but I must say I have been impressed by the abuse these tires and wheels have taken. And, as luck would have it, @JoeyD23 is the new marketing manager at 4WP so he was able to get us what we need.

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Dirty Harry

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While Ben lives in Colorado, I live in Nevada, and there is actually a number of Sonora Rally competitors around Reno. My friend Mike Shirley developed the Rally Navigator software and navigates for Eric Pucelik, the two won the event in 2017 in Eric's Predator sand car. Mike has been super helpful and open about sharing navigating tips with me.

And my buddy Ned and his wife Kat are racing in the Sonora Rally for the first time this year, competing in a Roxor. If you haven't heard of these vehicles, they are made by Mahindra and marketing as a UTV, but they have more in common with a Jeep than a RZR with their ladder frames, leaf springs, and solid axles. They use a turbodiesel engine, and Ned has added Fox shocks, an ARB Air Locker, and Yokohama tires. Their plan is to race this in NORRA as well, they don't even use a support crew! They just take everything with them in the race vehicle and then drive it back after the race.

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Dirty Harry

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I have some friends coming with us who are really talented photographers and videographers so I will be posting up more photos and videos in this thread during the race as well, time permitting. I am getting really excited/nervous for the event, I definitely feel like there is more pressure on me navigating in this event than traditional desert races and Ultra4 races.
 

DarrenSkilton

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Great write up Harry! Thanks. Can't wait to see you guys.
 

Dirty Harry

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So we are on the liaison on Day 2 and it is becoming pretty apparent that I don’t know what I am going when it comes to navigating. Today was all in the dunes, with no track just a heading for miles and miles. And the bikes had a different route so we couldn’t even cheat and follow them.

We had to cut out half way through the stage, we were almost out of fuel after spending time driving in circles looking for waypoints. We got beat by a Manx today!
 

Dirty Harry

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Stage 3 went way better for us than Stage 2, more rally roads than dunes so the navigation was not as difficult. I still made some errors but my confidence is way higher than it was last night.

Richard Giordano from @desktoglory is down here with us, if you are on Instagram check out his page for some great coverage of the Sonora Rally.
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y2kbaja

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And your car # is X'd out.
 

Dirty Harry

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Well there's your problem, the roadbook is in kilometers!

Haha yes it has taken some getting used to as I read off distances to Ben. I am definitely still getting the hang of reading the road book but Mike Shirley has been really helpful and open about sharing what works for them.
 

jon coleman

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i was on so. bay expressway job, tried to mesh metric w- standard, hmmm, 2×4, 4×8 sheet of plywood, ect.it ssssssucked
 

Dirty Harry

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Stage 4 was a lot of fun today! We covered another 200 km on terrain ranging from mountains to beaches to cactus fields. The navigation wasn’t as tricky as the dunes were, which has made it easier to pick up. Tomorrow is the last stage as we head to Hermosillo. Ben’s Ultra4 car has done really well, we’ve hardly had to put a wrench on it all week after over 1000 km of racing!
 

Dirty Harry

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Welp it turns out an Ultra4 car is a pretty good choice for rally raid. I, on the other hand, am not a good choice for a navigator!
We had the biggest engine and biggest tires and still got beat by some UTVs, but while they were rebuilding them each night we hardly had to put a wrench on Ben’s Jimmy’s 4x4 car.
I really wish the dunes and difficult navigation were at the end of the Rally instead of the beginning, but unfortunately they aren’t. I feel a lot more confident about navigation now, but we were on burned in roads the last three days.

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Hog Wild

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Good job getting to the finish!

It's likely next year it will go generally in the opposite direction, with the dunes at the end. 2020!

Photo courtesy Justin Coffey:
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