Sonora Rally: High-Tech Wizardry
Meets All-World Adventure
LONG BEACH, CALIF., — For the sold-out field of competitors ready to convene next week in challenging North America’s premier Dakar-style rally, an important aspect of their participation will be the integration of time-tested navigation with cutting-edge technology designed to enhance safety, live scoring and online coverage. For organizers of the 2016 Sonora Rally, that blending of a traditional rally-raid experience with high-tech wizardry is the final culmination of months of planning and coordination.
Led by rally-raid veterans Darren Skilton and Scott Whitney, the Sonora Rally will see competitors navigate from the starting line in San Luis Rio Colorado, Mexico beginning on April 3 before finishing four days later in Puerto Peñasco. Unlike more traditional North American desert races, Sonora Rally teams will have to overcome immense sand dunes, rugged, rocky trails and sand-filled washes – all without the benefit of GPS for finding their way through the expansive wilderness. A full field of international riders and racers will not only fight for overall victory, but also the chance to compete in the 2017 Dakar rally thanks to the Sonora Rally being included into the international Dakar Challenge.
Mimicking all international rally-raids including the legendary Dakar, participants in the Sonora Rally will rely on incredibly detailed scrolling road books (above) to navigate their way through the vast Sonoran desert. These all-important tools have been prepared by expert and rally co-founder Scott Whitney.
Following international rally-raid tradition, a race team’s primary information source will be the Sonora Rally’s painstakingly prepared “road book.” Assembled by Whitney, considered one of the industry’s best road book designers, the printed navigation tool will use the same formats and icons as the legendary Dakar rally. Competitors will find other new innovative elements in the road book created to enhance the daily on-course experience.
To aid entrants in learning the subtle intricacies of using an international-level road book, the Sonora Rally offers a pre-event rally school led by veteran Dave Peckham of Rally Management Services (RMS). Scheduled for the event’s Registration and Tech day, rally rookies will be brought up to speed on basic navigation, as well as educating experts on aspects unique to this competition.
That important, but traditional, reference material and training will serve as an all-important backdrop to a host of modern electronic technology – some of which is making its Sonora Rally debut in 2016.
A trio of famed racing entities — Quinn Cody, the Caselli Foundation and KTM — have banded together to provide all 2016 Sonora Rally participants with the added security of these time-tested satellite location units from Spot Tracker.
The Volocore organization will provide live tracking of all race vehicles, as well as acting as the central location for monitoring emergency requests sent through the SPOT tracking system (see below). In Dakar (and many other world-class cross-country rally events), the course remains secret throughout the event, with exact mapped location tracking available only to race officials. However, live race positions for each competitor will be displayed in a linear graph form for race fans around the world to monitor via the internet by linking directly to the www.SonoraRally.com website.
An instrumental safety tool for the Sonora Rally comes courtesy of a trio of partners including contestant Quinn Cody, the Caselli Foundation and manufacturer KTM to supply backup SPOT tracking units to all competitors. This proven technology not only enables race organizers to keep track of each entrant at all times, but also provides an added element of safety as riders and drivers can receive and respond to calls for help from even the most remote locations on the course.
Perhaps the most cutting-edge form of high-tech electronics will be the Sonora Rally introduction of the newly created “Rally Comp” system. Invented by Baja champion and FIM rally racer Mike Johnson, the system offers numerous functions that greatly simplify timing and scoring for the rally organization while enhancing the competitor’s on-course experience and safety. The multidimensional Rally Comp provides timing, scoring, pass alert, “man down” alerts, odometer, compass heading, waypoint validation, and numerous other functions — all packed into a small unit convenient to mount on cars, bikes and UTVs.
Making its Sonora Rally debut will be the newly-created Rally Comp system (yellow box, upper right). The high-tech new electronics package allows for enhanced timing and scoring functions, as well as state-of-the-art safety features.
A pair of functions that can be invaluable in rally as well as traditional Western US off-road racing are the “pass alert” and “man down” functions. With the press of a button, a fast approaching car can trigger a loud beeper in a slower motorcycle or car as a warning of a pending pass. This gives the slower vehicle time to move out of the way, or otherwise prepare to be overtaken.
Even more valuable is the “man down” function, which triggers an audio beeper from a disabled vehicle to all approaching racers, warning them there is a vehicle or person on or near the course in a dangerous position. This can be a life-saving feature in alerting vehicles approaching a blinding dust silt bed that someone may be outside a stuck car trying to extract themselves.
The Sonora Rally will prove the ideal proving ground for the Rally Comp device, and event organizers hope other sanctioning bodies will recognize its value and introduce it to many more off-road events.
Ok, the Sonora Rally is not all about technology and dirt. Mexico’s CHATEAU DOMECQ (above) has been named the “Official Wine” of the event’s closing night dinner party and awards ceremony, and will contribute to the prestigious Dakar Challenge prize package (including a full Dakar entry worth $20,000). They will also award MUMMS Champagne to the winner of the Challenge, as well as the overall and category winners. Sonora’s traditional drink Bacanora –an agave-derived liquor — will be part of the awards dinner as well, thanks to BACANORA PASCOLA, who will be providing gifts to each of the competitors. Cheers!
“We are proud to offer all of our Sonora Rally participants a great blend of traditional rally tools with cutting-edge technology,” explained co-founder Scott Whitney. “Our objective all along has been to build an international rally-raid for North America. A big component to that is to simultaneously embrace international tradition with world-class safety and support. We feel we now have achieved that objective.”
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For live rally tracking visit: http://sonorarally.com/livetracking.html
For daily rally results visit: http://sonorarally.com/results.html
For more information on the Rally Comp system visit www.RallyComp.com.
More information can be found on the Dakar Challenge page of the Sonora Rally website:
http://sonorarally.com/details/dakarchallenge.html and the official Dakar Rally website: Dakar.com
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2016 Sonora Rally Schedule
Sun. April 3 Registration, Vehicle Tech and Rally Training
Mon. April 4 Stage 1 Race
Tues. April 5 Stage 2 Race
Wed. April 6 Stage 3 Race
Thur. April 7 Stage 4 Race and Awards