Saturday, July 20, 2024

2023 Sonora Rally: Prodrive perfect in Stage 2

After Toyota Hiluxes finished 1–2 in the Prologue and Stage #1 of the Sonora Rally, the Prodrive Hunters responded with a vengeance on Tuesday as all four occupied the top five in T1.

Guerlain Chicherit led much of the stage before Sébastien Loeb went on to set the fastest time of at 1:28:28. The Hilux of Stage #1 winner Nasser Al-Attiyah was the lone non-Hunter in the top five as he finished second and 2:45 back of Loeb, consequently losing the overall lead to him though the margin is only three seconds.

Brothers Marcos and Cristian Baumgart, W2RC newcomers who are racing Hunters for the first time, dramatically improved from their eighth and ninth in Stage #1 to respectively finish third and fourth. The duo chased down Yazeed Al-Rajhi before the latter’s brake problems forced him to stop and make repairs, upon which the Baumgarts capitalised before getting by Chicherit in the closing sector. Despite dropping so many positions, Chicherit was able to muster a fifth.

The top level of FIM also saw a shakeup as Daniel Sanders dominated RallyGP to take the overall lead from Stage #1 winner Tosha Schareina. The latter now trails by 1:15.

However, Sanders will be on his own for the rest of the rally as GasGas team-mate Sam Sunderland crashed at the twenty-fourth kilometre and hurt his knee and nose. Sunderland’s W2RC title defence has been plagued by miserable fortune that included breaking his shoulder just one stage into the Dakar Rally and his ankle days before the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge.

Skyler Howes wrecked eighteen kilometres into the stage and suffered a shoulder injury, ending his hopes of a second consecutive Sonora Rally victory. Both riders were subsequently airlifted together back to the bivouac for treatment. While not the vegetation-filled leg of Monday, the margin for error remained low and Howes’ Husqvarna partner Luciano Benavides, who finished eighth, described Tuesday’s route as “a crazy stage with a lot of broken pistes, which made it really tricky to judge in places.”

In T3, Stage #1 winner Mattias Ekström lost the lead in the closing stretch to a pair of Red Bulls as Francisco López Contardo and Mitch Guthrie got by him, though Ekström remains atop the overall. López, back in the W2RC pursuit after skipping Abu Dhabi, completes a Red Bull sweep of the two UTV classes as Rokas Baciuška strengthens his grip on T4.

In the two-man Quad battle between Laisvydas Kancius and Rodolfo Guillioli, the latter trailed by nearly ten minutes as they hit the final checkpoint before finding his stride to beat his rival by thirty-seven seconds. Kancius still leads him in the overall by 16:31.

The stage was shortened from its original 286-km Special Stage distance to 161 km due to safety concerns. Such a predicament had also forced the start of Stage #1 to be delayed.

Stage #2 winners

All times and results unofficial as of article publication.

Class Number Competitor Team Time
T1 200 Sébastien Loeb Bahrain Raid Xtreme 1:28:28
T3 303 Francisco López Contardo Red Bull Can-Am Factory Racing 1:33:25
T4 400 Rokas Baciuška Red Bull Can-Am Factory Racing 1:38:32
RallyGP 18 Daniel Sanders Red Bull GasGas Factory Racing 1:28:08
Rally2 17 Romain Dumontier HT Rally Raid Husqvarna Racing 1:34:31
Rally3 57 Massimo Camurri Freedom Rally Racing 2:10:00
Quad 165 Rodolfo Guillioli Pepitas Racing Team 2:09:40
* – Not competing in World Rally-Raid Championship

Leaders after Stage #2

Class Number Competitor Team Time
T1 200 Sébastien Loeb Bahrain Raid Xtreme 3:03:16
T3 308 Mattias Ekström South Racing Can-Am 3:15:17
T4 400 Rokas Baciuška Red Bull Can-Am Factory Racing 3:23:22
RallyGP 18 Daniel Sanders Red Bull GasGas Factory Racing 3:46:59
Rally2 17 Romain Dumontier HT Rally Raid Husqvarna Racing 4:01:59
Rally3 57 Massimo Camurri Freedom Rally Racing 5:15:17
Quad 162 Laisvydas Kancius AG Dakar School 5:04:44
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