The 2023 World Rally-Raid Championship (W2RC) arrives in Mexico for the next mission on the off-road menu: The Sonora Rally. The third stop of the season sees crucial points up for grabs as many competitors prepare to race in the region for the first-time ever. Varied terrain across all five stages and a combined racing distance of 1,249 kilometres will make this one of the most unpredictable rounds of the season.
Things couldn’t have started much worse for Sébastien Loeb at last month’s second round of the W2RC in Abu Dhabi. The nine-time WRC winner was unable to bring his BRX Prodrive Hunter to the finish line of the first stage. However, Loeb and co-driver Fabian Lurquin battled back to finish the second round of the season in 21st overall. Thanks to impressive stage results Loeb ended up extending his championship lead to 16 points over his nearest rival.
“It’s always a new adventure whenever there’s a new event for anyone and Sonora certainly has that feel to it.” – Sébastien Loeb
2023 Dakar Rally winner Nasser Al-Attiyah remains Loeb’s closest competitor in the W2RC’s T1 class. That’s despite the Qatari and his co-driver Mathieu Baumelrecording a DNF in Abu Dhabi after their Toyota Hilux GR DKR T1+ rolled during Stage Three. Al-Attiyah is sure to be on the hunt to claw back as much of Loeb’s advantage as he can in Mexico.
“We had a big crash at the last round of the championship in Abu Dhabi so we want to comeback strong with a good result in Mexico.” – Nasser Al-Attiyah
Leading the W2RC bike standings ahead of the Sonora Rally is two-time Dakar winner Toby Price of Red Bull KTM Factory Racing. The Australian narrowly missed out on a third Dakar win earlier this year and now looks determined to take his shot at World Championship glory.
“The aim is to get the win in Mexico and if this isn’t possible then I want to make sure I’m on the podium.” – Toby Price
Price is joined in Mexico by fellow Red Bull KTM Factory Racing riders Kevin Benavides and Matthias Walkner. Both riders are back on their bikes after working hard to recover from injury. Find out more about Benavides’s remarkable road to recovery from a broken femur and how he got back in the saddle in less than two months here.
Red Bull GASGAS Factory Racing are represented by reigning W2RC title holder Sam Sunderland and Daniel Sanders at the Sonora Rally. Factory riders for GASGAS and KTM will all have to be at their best to hold off challenges from the North American bikers in the race, many of whom have ridden the Sonora Rally many times before.
“I’m looking forward to having a good run down in Mexico. It’s a new adventure for us and I’m excited to see what it has to offer.” – Sam Sunderland
The Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team USA presented by BFGoodrich drivers are also no strangers to racing in Mexico. Seth Quintero currently leads the T3 category of the W2RC alongside co-driver Dennis Zenz. Their closest rivals are team-mates Austin ‘AJ’ Jones and his co-driver Gustavo Gugelmin, with Quintero and Jones – both driving Can-Ams – separated by just five points in the overall rankings.
“It’s going to be different, not having to get on a plane for 16 hours to go to a rally. Instead it’ll be a five-hour drive from my house.” – Austin ‘AJ’ Jones
The third Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team USA presented by BFGoodrich crew of Mitch Guthrie Jr./Kellon Walch arrive in Mexico with their MCE5 vehicle. This duo are currently third overall in the T3 W2RC rankings.
The UTVs of the T3 category are a major feature of off-road races across North America such at the Baja 500 and 1000. Therefore it’s no surprise to find a stacked field of competitors entered into the T3 race at the Sonora Rally. Expect to find Chaleco Lopez/Juan Pablo Latrach, Cristina Gutiérrez/Pablo Moreno, Mattias Ekström/Emil Bergkvist and others pushing for top honours.
“I’m excited to race again in Latin America, the motorsport fans there are some of the most passionate in the world.” – Cristina Gutiérrez
In the T4 class there’s an overall lead for Rokas Baciuška and co-driver Oriol Vidal of the Red Bull Can-Am Factory Team to protect. A runners-up result at the Dakar and a win at last month’s Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge have handed Baciuška a great start to the season.
The 2023 Sonora Rally gets underway with a Prologue Stage on Sunday, April 23 in the city of Hermosillo. Then comes five rally-raid stages with a combined distance of 1,249km before the chequered flag flies in San Luis Río Colorado on Friday, April 28.