Tuesday, March 5, 2024

2023 Sonora Rally: FIM roadbook error overshadows Stage 4

Rally raid can be described as a marriage of off-road racing and orienteering as competitors find their ways around checkpoints with the help of a roadbook. Should the roadbook have an error, however…

Stage #4 of the Sonora Rally took a bizarre turn (literally) when multiple riders got lost due to a typo in the FIM roadbook that stated “CAP 298” at KM 76.84 instead of the intended CAP 233. In layman’s terms, CAP is the compass heading that indicates which degree that a competitor should head; for example, CAP 0 would mean 0° on a compass and straight north. In this predicament’s case, CAP 298 means 298° or west-north-west, when riders should have gone southwest at 223°.

Such a mistake was spotted by some riders when they realised the path ahead of them on what was written did not match the drawings in the roadbook. Among those who overruled the book’s content were Toby Price, who took the lead at the fourth checkpoint and held off Tosha Schareina to win by twenty-three seconds.

“I didn’t have any problems, but I know a few did, so it’ll be a bit of a messy day results-wise,” wrote Price. “Still, my day has gone well, and I was pushing the whole way, just trying to do my best for the championship standings. One day to go, so I’ll keep things safe and try and stay on two wheels.”

“I was opening the road again for the lads and came across a few tricky and interesting notes that didn’t really make sense,” overall leader Daniel Sanders recalled. He finished the stage in fourth after a late error caused him to lose time, but he still leads Schareina in the overall by 5:42 with one leg to go. “One note we followed had a different degree to what matched the drawing, I took a risk and trusted the drawing over the cap and it made sense 10km later down that track. It was a sickening feeling today out front as things didn’t quite match sometimes for me, I rode pretty cautiously as I have everything to lose right now.”

While Schareina finished second, his allies at Monster Energy Honda were not as lucky with the situation as Adrien Van Beveren, José Igacio Cornejo, and Pablo Quintanilla committed to the roadbook and consequently deviated from the actual route. Quintanilla finished last in RallyGP, his worst run of the rally to date, after what he called “a big casino” of a stage in which he elected to ride conservatively upon rejoining the course.

“I kept going but could not find the piste, so I came back and I met other riders that were also lost,” said Van Beveren. “I came back to the point where I knew it was right and then Pablo and Nacho arrived. We kept looking, but the CAP was not correct.”

Fortunately for those affected, the FIM eventually ruled to disregard the times between KMs 73.63 and 91.36, the latter being where they were able to get back on track. Kevin Benavides, another rider who fell for the error, applauded the decision as “many times similar things have happened and they didn’t remove it, like in Stage 1 of Dakar 2022.”

Drama also befell the National Moto classes as many were unable to reach checkpoints in time and ordered to return to the bivouac via the liaison sector. Off Piste Adventure saw both of their riders Jordan Dukes and Matt Ransom exit this way, the latter riding his team-mate Luke Stalker’s bike after his own vehicle blew a head gasket in the previous stage only for his replacement to suffer an electrical issue. The duo’s progress was also impeded when they stopped to assist a competitor dealing with heat exhaustion.

The FIA categories’ roadbook was perfectly fine by comparison, but that did not mean they were devoid of chaos. With Sébastien Loeb‘s retirement in Stage #3, Guerlain Chicherit tried to pick up the torch dropped by his fellow Prodrive Hunter only for a mechanical failure to strike while leading at the 159th kilometre.

Nasser Al-Attiyah, who took over the FIA overall lead from Loeb, held off another Hunter of Marcos Baumgart to win by 3:51, though the latter was relegated to third after receiving a pair of speeding penalties totalling three minutes. This promoted Yazeed Al-Rajhi up to second behind Al-Attiyah, matching their current positions in the general classification. Al-Rajhi needs to make up 7:22 on the fifth and final day if he wants to win for the second straight rally.

Red Bulls swept the T3 podium as Mitch Guthrie led Seth Quintero and Cristina Gutiérrez. Mattias Ekström lost the overall lead to Guthrie after finishing sixth after what he called “the day we went for a picnic”; Ekström trails by 1:09.

Stage #4 winners

Class Number Competitor Team Time
T1 202 Nasser Al-Attiyah Toyota Gazoo Racing 2:40:34
T3 302 Mitch Guthrie Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team 2:51:44
T4 400 Rokas Baciuška Red Bull Can-Am Factory Racing 3:06:24
RallyGP 8 Toby Price Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 2:33:21
Rally2 17 Romain Dumontier HT Rally Raid Husqvarna Racing 2:41:14
Rally3 57 Massimo Camurri Freedom Rally Racing 3:34:19
Quad 162 Laisvydas Kancius AG Dakar School 3:21:06
National Car/UTV 610 Zach Lumsden* TrophyLite 4:11:25
National Enduro 513 Brendan Crow* Brendan Crow 3:47:25
National Malle Moto 501 Matt Sutherland* Matt Sutherland 3:47:25
* – Not competing in World Rally-Raid Championship

Leaders after Stage #4

Class Number Competitor Team Time
T1 201 Nasser Al-Attiyah Toyota Gazoo Racing 9:15:10
T3 302 Mitch Guthrie Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team 9:56:32
T4 400 Rokas Baciuška Red Bull Can-Am Factory Racing 10:23:37
RallyGP 18 Daniel Sanders Red Bull GasGas Factory Racing 9:47:08
Rally2 17 Romain Dumontier HT Rally Raid Husqvarna Racing 10:26:32
Rally3 57 Massimo Camurri Freedom Rally Racing 14:06:06
Quad 162 Laisvydas Kancius AG Dakar School 13:15:41
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