The stage 2 special, which was shortened from 286 to 162 kilometers for safety reasons, took the field from Hermosillo, the capital of Sonora, to the stage city of Puerto Peñasco, on the shores of the Sea of Cortez.
In the motorbike category, the title holder, Skyler Howes (Husqvarna Factory Racing), and the reigning world champion, Sam Sunderland (Red Bull GasGas Factory Racing), both crashed out of the race in the opening kilometers. The GasGas rider Daniel Sanders won the stage and padded his overall lead.
In the car category, Sébastien Loeb (Bahrain Raid Xtreme) stormed to victory by 2′45″ over Nasser Al Attiyah (Toyota Gazoo Racing) and snatched the lead from him by just 3 seconds. Yazeed Al Rajhi (Overdrive Racing) dropped to fifth place after losing his brakes in the special.
FIM: Sanders in a league of his own
The second special of the Sonora Rally got off to an inauspicious start for the Austrian teams, as Skyler Howes and Sam Sunderland both went down hard in the first few minutes of the timed section. The American hurt his shoulder, while the Brit suffered bruises to his knee and face. Fifth in the championship, Skyler Howes was the defending champion of the event and had high hopes of scoring big on home turf in the third round. As for the reigning world champion, Sunderland went home empty-handed for the third time in a row this season. He has yet to open his account in 2023. After tumbling out of stage 1 of the Dakar, he had to skip the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge due to a crash a few days before the race. Now, luck has struck “Sundersam” down again. His teammate Daniel Sanders had a much better day in the office. As the top W2RC rider yesterday, the youngest recruit of the Mattighofen teams started ahead of his rivals this morning. As unenviable as this position usually is, like yesterday, the man from Oz managed to turn it to his advantage. No rider was able to match his time, a rare feat. “Chucky” twisted the knife by pocketing the bonuses reserved for the three openers of the special, which made their appearance today. The official GasGas rider crossed the finish line with 2′18″ in hand over Ricky Brabec (Monster Energy Honda) and 2′59″ over Toby Price (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing). Sanders defended his position at the summit of the standings, where he now leads the Hondas of the most prolific winner in the history of the event, Ricky Brabec, by 4′16″, and Pablo Quintanilla by 4′56″. Toby Price is ninth at 9′02″ despite his performance today. In Rally2, Romain Dumontier once again carried the day. The HT Rally Raid Husqvarna Racing man beat a trio of BAS World KTM Racing riders consisting of Jacob Argubright at 1′13″, Bradley Cox at 4′23″, and Paolo Lucci at 5′00″. In the overall standings, “Dudu” holds a 5′39″ lead over Cox, 9′34″ over Argubright, 13′09″ over Theric, and 13′38″ over the leader of the championship, Lucci. In Rally3, the Italian Massimo Camurri extended his lead over his two rivals and has more than half an hour to spare in the overall standings. Meanwhile, in the quad category, the leader of the championship, Laisvydas Kancius, relinquished the victory to Rodolfo Guillioli at the eleventh hour, but the Lithuanian only conceded 37 seconds and is still over sixteen minutes ahead of the Guatemalan.
FIA: Loeb ahead by 30 seconds
Following Guerlain Chicherit (GCK Motorsport), who adopted it two days ago, Sébastien Loeb showed up at the start of the special this morning sporting a Mexican mustache. It suited the Frenchman, who beat Nasser Al Attiyah by 2′45″ and his Prodrive teammate by 3′50″. Loeb even wrested the overall lead from Al Attiyah by a meager 3 seconds! Chicherit is third at 4′57″. Yazeed Al Rajhi may also need to shave his beard tomorrow to have the same luck as the new leader of the race. The Saudi’s brakes gave out 35 kilometers into the special, leaving him to finish the special 9′04″ behind the fastest time of the day. In the overall standings, the Overdrive Racing driver, who was second going into the stage, only 27″ from Nasser Al Attiyah, dropped to fifth place, now 6′49″ down on Loeb, making him the big loser of the day. “Chaleco” López (Red Bull Can-Am Factory) won the T3 stage by 1′36″ over Mitch Guthrie (Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team USA). Mattias Ekström (South Racing Can-Am) finished just one second behind the American. The Swede remains in control of the overall standings by 1′55″ over “Chaleco” and 2′21″ over Guthrie. In T4, Rokas Baciuška (Red Bull Can-Am Factory) picked up his third consecutive victory and now has nearly 45 minutes to spare over Rebecca Busi (FN Speed).
A hairy situation for Howes
The Sonora Rally set up camp at the finish of the stage in the second bivouac of the race, in Puerto Peñasco, just above the beach lined with hotels and campgrounds filled with XXL-sized motorhomes straight from the neighboring United States. Skyler Howes, who hit the deck this morning, has known this atmosphere well since his maiden victory here in 2018 and absolutely wanted to share it with the W2RC caravan. The competitors still in the race will spend three nights in the seaside resort to start stages 3 and 4 in a loop before the final stage to San Luis Colorado. Underneath the large mustache that he has been growing this season in tribute to his grandfather, who used to enter desert races, Howes’s lips voice his regret at having to quit the Sonora Rally: “This is my favorite race of the year, whether it’s a [W2RC] round or not. When I competed in my first rally, this is where I had my start in the sport, and I promised myself that I would make it back every year regardless of what’s happening because this is one of my favorite events. My favorite part is how close everyone is. You come into the bivouac, and you would normally have local catering —a grandma cooking the tortillas— which is really cool to see because we have so much of the local culture involved. At a lot of rallies, we might go to some random bivouac in the middle of the desert, but here, we have so many of the locals down on the beach, riding through some of the ranches and just traveling through the small towns… It’s one of my favorite rallies because of that. Every event, you can see so much of the country, but in Sonora, you’re able to see the people and traditions in these areas. Understandably, now, at this size, you need to go to different bivouacs than usual, but I was still really excited to be able to share this with the rest of the world because it has a special place in my heart.”
Stage 3 : Puerto Peñasco – Puerto Peñasco – Total : 466 km – Road sections : 116 km – Spécial : 350 km
Special start times :
– first FIM start : 06:30 am
– first FIA start : 8 am