Saturday, July 13, 2024

2023 Sonora Rally: Al-Rajhi, Cox speed through Prologue

The 2023 Sonora Rally kicked off Sunday with a ten-kilometre Prologue stage just outside Hermosillo at the Autódromo Cerro Colorado, where competitors took off on the drag strip before hitting what many described as a slick desert littered with loose gravel. Such a short leg is usually not indicative of what to expect in the main race, but a strong performance is always a good way to enter the five main stages with momentum.

This was perhaps best evidenced in the FIM categories as the Rally2 of Bradley Cox set the fastest overall time of all bikes with five minutes and twenty-six seconds, even beating out everyone in the premier RallyGP class. World Rally-Raid Championship bikes points leader Toby Price barely lost out to Cox by just two seconds with Luciano Benavides seven seconds back of Cox.

Privateer Tosha Schareina, in his first race with Honda, tied with new factory-backed ally and Abu Dhabi winner Adrien Van Beveren for fourth. The Prologue’s quick nature meant draws were not uncommon throughout the field on both two and four wheels, such as in FIA T3 as Mitch Guthrie and João Ferreira set identical times of 5:45 but the former beat him by a tenth of a second.

Abu Dhabi FIA winner Yazeed Al-Rajhi led a Toyota Hilux 1–2 in T1 ahead of Nasser Al-Attiyah, the latter in a newly repaired truck after his Abu Dhabi Hilux got totalled in a wreck, with one second between them. Guerlain Chicherit beat his fellow Prodrive Hunter and W2RC FIA points leader Sébastien Loeb.

The furthest gap between the top two came in the two-man Quad battle as Laisvydas Kancius set a time of 6:55 ahead of Rodolfo Guillioli‘s 7:51. Guillioli was the first person to begin the Prologue.

Despite Cox being the highest finishing bike, his status as a Rally2 rider makes him ineligible to be among the first starters overall for Stage #1 as such a perk is reserved for RallyGP. He will therefore be the sixteenth rider to begin Monday’s stage behind the fifteen RallyGP riders, while the top ten in the class picks their starting spot.

Two of the three Rally3 riders, winner Massimo Camurri and third-placed Ardit Kurtaj, received time penalties for speeding as they are limited to 130 km/h. Kurtaj had also made an error at the sixth kilometre that caused him to go off course and take a two-km detour, only to get fifteen more minutes tacked onto his final time for missing the final waypoint.

“Being the first to start and completely without any tracks was anything but easy for me,” said Kurtaj. “The bike is great to ride! Many thanks to my team for the great job. I’m looking forward to Stage 1 tomorrow.”

Prologue winners

Class Number Competitor Team Time
T1 202 Yazeed Al-Rajhi Overdrive Racing 5:18
T3 203 Mitch Guthrie Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team 5:45
T4 400 Rokas Baciuška Red Bull Can-Am Factory Racing 6:00
RallyGP 8 Toby Price Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 5:28
Rally2 21 Bradley Cox BAS World KTM Racing Team 5:26
Rally3 57 Massimo Camurri Freedom Rally Racing 7:20
Quad 162 Laisvydas Kancius Laisvydas Kancius 6:55
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