Thursday, May 23, 2024

2023 Sonora Rally: Matt Sutherland’s ironman double begins with Malle Moto win

Perhaps the busiest two weeks in Matt Sutherland‘s racing career is off to a good start as he won the National Malle Moto class at the Sonora Rally, but he will not have much time to cherish the triumph as he boards a van for a four-hour trip from San Luis Río Colorado to Ensenada to compete in the Mexican 1000.

Sutherland is competing in the Ultimate Ironman Challenge, a new programme created by the overseers of the Sonora Rally and Mexican 1000 for bike riders doing both events on their own without assistance from teams (help from other riders is permitted). Only Sutherland and Matthew Glade are attempting it, for which they will receive a commemorative plaque from Mexican 1000 organiser NORRA.

Already the reigning Mexican 1000 champion, the challenge began on a strong note as Sutherland finished fourth among all National Moto riders in the Prologue and first in his class. While National Enduro entrants, who have outside support and crews unlike Malle Moto, were the top finishers overall across the six days, Sutherland placed as high as second in Stages #1 and #4.

While not a perfectly flawless outing as he received fifty-one minutes in penalties including thirty in the fifth and final stage for missing a waypoint (relegating him to eleventh), the time added was still significantly less than his competitors as the second fewest by runner-up Paul Mumford added up to ten hours and forty-five minutes.

When Malle Moto and Enduro are combined together for the overall results, Sutherland’s run of 18:24:08 is good for third behind Brendan Crow’s 16:37:36 and Francisco Alvarez’s 17:56:38. Alvarez edged out Sutherland for the Road to Dakar, which grants the winner free admission to the 2024 Dakar Rally; five of the eight Malle Moto riders were RtD hopefuls.

“No navigation for us in the national class this year as we were the last vehicles to start in the heat of the day,” wrote Sutherland. “It was pretty brutal out there so [well] done to all the national guys who endured the brutal terrain we had this year. It was tough out there.

“Huge thanks to SD Powerhouse for prepping my bike that was flawless and to AHM Factory Services for giving me the suspension setup to handle the hidden square edges and everything else thrown at us over the past 6 days. It would have been a different story on my old suspension setup.”

Mumford would finish over thirteen hours behind Sutherland. Glade joined his fellow Challenge rider on the class podium in third.

Friends Vladimir Malyarevich and Alexander Kachaev were the lone non-North Americans in the field, respectively hailing from Belarus and Russia. While the FIM, who sanctions the World Rally-Raid Championship’s bike classes at Sonora, has a hard ban on riders from the two countries due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, National entries are independent of the FIM and FIA. Kachaev crashed just two kilometres into Stage #1 and spent the rest of the rally chasing Malyarevich and company, but successfully completed the race as the final bike finisher in thirty-fourth.

Sandwiched between the two, Ben Howard was the only adventure bike competitor; his Yamaha Ténéré 700 is heavier than the enduro KTMs, Hondas, and Husqvarnas of his peers with its larger size and engine. Howard endured a tumultuous Stage #4 when he and multiple colleagues got stuck in the desert and reached the bivouac in the late evening upon spotting a fuel truck, but managed to reach the finish.

“My arms are so tired I can hardly hold my Sonora Rally trophy up,” Howard quipped. “The Ténéré 700 was the only adventure bike entered so I won the category by simply finishing. I also came in as 30th out of 41 in the general motorcycle category. The XL Adventure bike was hard work in the beat up roads left by the FIM classes run ahead of the national motos and I struggled with it a few of the days, only holding a 21mph average [at] times.

“My arms will have to recover some, I can barely turn the wheel of my truck.”

National Malle Moto overall results

Finish Number Rider Team Time Margin
1 501 Matt Sutherland Matt Sutherland 18:24:08 Leader
2 542 Paul Mumford Paul Mumford 32:01:13 + 13:37:05
3 508 Matthew Glade RallyMotoShop 47:36:44 + 29:12:6
4 510 Hector Guerrero Mocedi Racing Team 51:31:56 + 33:07:48
5 521 Benjamin Myers Benjamin Myers 71:32:47 + 53:08:39
6 514 Vladimir Malyarevich Vladimir Malyarevich 81:03:07 + 62:38:59
7 528 Ben Howard Ben Howard 86:26:31 + 68:02:23
8 520 Alexander Kachaev Alexander Kachaev 119:10:28 + 110:46:20
Underscore – Road to Dakar participant

National Malle Moto stage winners

Stage Rider Time
Prologue Matt Sutherland 52:56
Stage #1 Matt Sutherland 2:41:56
Stage #2 Matt Sutherland 2:22:15
Stage #3 Matt Sutherland 6:20:50
Stage #4 Matt Sutherland 3:59:33
Stage #5 Matt Sutherland 2:06:38

Overall winners

Class Number Competitor Team Time
T1 201 Nasser Al-Attiyah Toyota Gazoo Racing 10:29:55
T3 302 Mitch Guthrie Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team 11:17:24
T4 400 Rokas Baciuška Red Bull Can-Am Factory Racing 11:51:05
RallyGP 18 Daniel Sanders Red Bull GasGas Factory Racing 11:01:09
Rally2 17 Romain Dumontier HT Rally Raid Husqvarna Racing 11:48:21
Rally3 57 Massimo Camurri Freedom Rally Racing 15:59:16
Quad 162 Laisvydas Kancius AG Dakar School 15:33:14
National Car/UTV 605 Sara Price* SP Motorsports 17:14:04
National Enduro 513 Brendan Crow* Brendan Crow 16:37:36
National Malle Moto 501 Matt Sutherland* Matt Sutherland 18:24:08
* – Not competing in World Rally-Raid Championship
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