It’s almost October, 2022, and you know what that means? North America’s single biggest rally event is due to kick off in the beautiful Sonora Desert! From October 17 through 22, 2022, competitors on motorcycles or in UTVs, cars, and street-legal four-wheel-drive vehicles will tackle terrain from Hermosillo to San Luis Rio Colorado in Sonora, Mexico. 

The event, which organizers bill as “a five-day Dakar-style navigation rally in Mexico’s pristine Sonora Desert,” is seen by many as a proving ground for other international cross-country rallies. Although many of the most dramatic photography involves dunes, there’s a lot more to the terrain than just that. From mountains to washes to beaches and more, there are a wide variety of challenges to explore along the way. 

How does it work? As with most cross-country rallies, while the course is laid out in roadbooks ahead of time, no one in the competition knows it until the day the rally starts. That’s when competitors are handed their roadbooks, which they must follow to get through the stages. There are no GPS tracks or course markings—competitors must be able to successfully navigate using the instructions that they’re given. 

Additionally, while some crew support is allowed, it’s only allowed in the bivouac area. When competitors are out on the day’s course, they must take care of their own mechanical needs each day. On Specials and Transfers, competitors are also allowed to help each other—but no crew members can do so unless the rally organization has specifically authorized them to do so. 

Since this is a rally event where both cars and bikes will compete, organizers have plans in place to keep the two vehicle classes as separate as possible for safety. The official Sonora Rally website goes into some detail about the methods they’ll be using, which includes the Rally Comp device (also seen in Dakar) that lets cars on the course notify bikes when they’re approaching to pass.  

It’s not Baja, it’s not Dakar—the Sonora Rally is very much its own thing. Since seeing is believing, be sure to check out this short documentary video from the 2020 Sonora Rally if you want a better idea of what the whole event is about. 

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