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2021 Sonora Rally / Day 2 SS1: Short and Sweet

The Rally’s First Stage Left a Bitter Taste for Some

By WESTx1000

A big part of rally raid is fluidity. Being flexible, changing directions in a flash and dealing with unwelcome surprises as they try to turn the race upside-down. When the French hieroglyphs meant to guide you through a khaki indistinguishable ocean of sand start to transform into an even more alien code. Seemingly impossible to navigate at times, especially when the digital bits don’t seem to match the analog. It’s up to the talented, the experienced and, so often, the lucky to take mayhem and make it work in their favor.

All in all, the day brought bright blue skies, beautiful terrain, smooth rhythms and modest waves of dunes. A short liaison out of San Luis Rio Colorado led teams to fast gravel ranch roads and straight into a modest mountain range of sand. For the Pros, this was their opportunity to build up a pace and make quick of the first 40 kilometers. Everything buttoned up clean, with no more than two penalties incurred by the whole group – one in Bikes and one in UTVs. However, the former led to an unfortunate DNF for a Kawasaki rider premiering his rally efforts here in Sonora.

Hare & Hound elite athlete Jason Aubright [#28] had a tougher time than most. Making great time, with hardly any hiccups, Aubright climbed the steep, loose sand faces up to Kino Cross, collected his Waypoint and promptly came to a halt. Despite the mild chaos ensuing all over the course – electronic devices going on strike for several navigators – Aubright’s ultimate, untimely end was the result of a blown motor. A DNF no wanted to see, especially so soon. He wasn’t the only racer to make a fateful pit stop on the Dune highway either. Sara Price and co-pilot Kellon Walch [#52] contended with a number of mysterious gremlins which, as luck would have it, wouldn’t have much of an effect on their results in SS1 as they might have expected. Organizers had to cut down the stage as far as these glimmering white crossroads to determine fair and proper rankings for the special, their best response to a small issue with roadbooks which created a domino effect on the competitors.

In a surprising turn of events, young Mason Klein [#6] took the stage ahead of rally raid greats like Skyler Howes [#2, Rockstar Husqvarna], Andrew Short [#3, Monster Energy Yamaha], Ignacio “Nacho” Cornejo [#4, Monster Energy Honda] and Ricky Brabec [#1, Monster Energy Honda]. An impressive start for a promising rider, whose finish in an abbreviated trial. Tomorrow will be the true test for Klein, the factory bikes and a rolodex of talented pilots from the elite to the grassroots heroes.

“Started 6th today, smooth riding to the start of the special. It made me confident for the stage ahead. The course was fun, and I enjoyed the riding. The roadbook was done well, but I had some difficulty with connecting the Waypoints. Obviously, everybody gets frustrated at times, but it’s something we all have to deal with on the course. I’m just happy I finished the stage and the bike was in good condition. We’re ready for tomorrow and I just want to make my parents proud.” – Mason Klein #6 in MOTO

The UTVs surprised fans with their own unexpected outcome. 2020 Dakar winner, Casey Currie and navigator Sean Berriman [#52, Polaris RZR] endured the same onboard errors as some of the other contests, which placed him further down the ranks than usual. While Dakar comrades, fresh off their first venture to the infamous rally in Saudi Arabia found their way, more predictably, in the top seats with Polaris RZR teammates Kristen Matlock and Terry Madden [#54] taking Second and husband Wayne Matlock with co-driver Sam Hayes [#55] settling in Third. The real excitement came with former navigator Max Eddy Jr. [#57] taking their reins and a roadbook for himself in an independent effort to win the favor, officially, of Polaris. Even he was a bit surprised as he rocketed across the desert and into the Winner’s Circle captaining a single-seat RZR (with a cast on, no less), with unwavering focus on the next step, Special Stage Two.

Despite the shortcomings – of any competition – what makes this so special, especially this year, is the intimacy. A chance for someone of any skillset to show their worth in a heat over the very same tracks as current and coming legends. To share meals and strike conversations with motorsport stars, which in another industry or sport or even just a bigger event, would be damn-near impossible. Factory riders and pros use this opportunity to train, maybe enjoy a race with a little less pressure and, dare we say, have a little fun. Perhaps it’s nice not to be barred off from everyone like an exotic zoo animal. Either way, it appears, if only from afar, that this closeness among on-course adversaries is a little bit special for all the attendees from the top of the pyramid to the foundation below.

For up-to-date results, follow Yokohama Sonora Rally’s social media channels or click here.

KEY NOTES

Ø In an unfortunate turn of events, Jacob Aubright suffered engine troubles and was escorted out of the dunes. He had a promising pace, reaching Kino Cross – today’s impromptu finish line – in 4th, but wasn’t able to liaison to the bivouac.

Ø Last year, racing the Sonora Rally at 18, Mason Klein was one of the youngest participants, let alone with a fighting chance. At the ripe young age of 19, he’s still holding his title.

Quotes:

Casey Currie #51, POLARIS RZR FACTORY: “Navigation was on point with Sean Berriman, and we opened today so bushwhacking was big. We showed the toughness of our Nitto Tires. Looks like we ended 4th overall which isn’t even correct as the tracking system broke and they [shortened] the stage. Tomorrow is a new day, and we are here to test, tune and train.”

Ricky Brabec #1, MONSTER ENERGY HONDA: “The day was honestly really good, I think the organization is a little crooked. I think people should follow the rally book as it was intended. And if it was up to me, I think all the Pro racers should have finished the entire roadbook. But [nonetheless], I’m looking forward to the next four days.”

Sara Price #52, POLARIS RZR FACTORY: “We are so excited to be back in Mexico. I have Kellon Walch in the navigator seat, and we are ready to go. Today is the first stage of the rally, we will be going from San Luis Rio Colorado to El Sultan. We are on the road to Dakar.”

Andrew Short #3, MONSTER ENERGY YAMAHA: “It was great to get back down to Sonora. Starting the race in the dunes, and the surrounding terrain, is really fun. These dunes are massive and have a really good flow.”

TOP TEN STAGE RESULTS

MOTORCYCLE
1. #6 Mason Klein, Pro
2. #2 Skyler Howes, ROCKSTAR ENERGY HUSQVARNA
3. #3 Andrew Short, MONSTER ENERGY YAMAHA
4. #4 Jose Ignacio Cornejo, MONSTER ENERGY HONDA
5. #1 Ricky Brabec, MONSTER ENERGY HONDA
6. #12 Kendall Norman, JCR HONDA
7. #11 Mike Johnson, Pro
8. #5 Wes VanNieuwenhuise, ROTTWEILER PERFORMANCE
9. #9 Scott Bright, Pro
10. #29 Jordan Huibregtse, Pro

QUAD
1. #35 Mauricio Segura Gongora

UTV
1. #57 Max Eddy, Pro
2. #54 Kristen Matlock and Terry Madden, Polaris RZR
3. #55 Wayne Matlock and Sam Hayes, Polaris RZR
4. #51 Casey Currie and Sean Berriman, Polaris RZR
5. #53 Dave Sykes and George LaMonte, Pro
6. #52 Sara Price and Kellon Walch, Polaris RZR
7. #61 Bill Conger and Amy Feistel, Pro
8. #59 Jim Price and Sienna Price, Pro

TOP FIVE GENERAL STANDINGS

MOTORCYCLE
1. #6 Mason Klein, Pro
2. #2 Skyler Howes, ROCKSTAR ENERGY HUSQVARNA
3. #3 Andrew Short, MONSTER ENERGY YAMAHA
4. #4 Jose Ignacio Cornejo, MONSTER ENERGY HONDA
5. #1 Ricky Brabec, MONSTER ENERGY HONDA

QUAD
1. #35 Mauricio Segura Gongora

UTV
1. #57 Max Eddy, Pro
2. #54 Kristen Matlock and Terry Madden, Polaris RZR
3. #55 Wayne Matlock and Sam Hayes, Polaris RZR
4. #51 Casey Currie and Sean Berriman, Polaris RZR
5. #53 Dave Sykes and George LaMonte, Pro