The Dakar Rally annually kicks off the FIM Cross-Country Rallies Championship. While the World’s Toughest Race receives the lion’s share of media coverage, the Sonora Rally will bring the world’s best rally riders to North America in 2023. The stakes couldn’t be higher either, with just eight points separating the top three competitors in the series. With that backdrop, the Mexican state of Sonora will mark a pivotal chapter in the 2023 title chase.
The five-day, Dakar-style event won’t just showcase the stunningly beautiful yet technically challenging Sonoran Desert but will also feature Dakar regulars like Skyler Howes and Ricky Barbec. The American riders both stand to improve their place in the standings at the rally. Howes won the Sonora Rally in 2018 and 2022. 2020 Dakar Rally-winner Brabec is no slouch himself, claiming victory in 2017, 2019, 2020, and 2021. At fifth and 11th in the standings (respectively), Howes and Brabec could benefit from a little home-field advantage.
That doesn’t mean that series frontrunners like KTM riders Toby Price and Kévin Benavides, and Honda’s Adrien Van Beveren won’t put up a fight in the Mexican desert. Organizers will execute administrative and technical checks on April 22, 2023, before the prologue stage kicks off at the Autodromo Cerro Colorado the following day. On April 24, 2023, Stage 1 will include a loop route beginning and ending in the state capital of Hermosillo.
Riders will then travel from Hermosillo to Penasco on April 25, 2023, before completing two Penasco-Pensaco loops on April 26-27, 2023. The fifth and final stage will send competitors to San Luis Rio Colorado on April 28, 2023, where the top finishers will receive the spoils of victory at the final ceremony. Throughout the event, the rigorous Sonoran Desert landscape promises to separate the contenders from the pretenders.
“We feel the landscape is not going to disappoint, and teams are going to find out how demanding some of the terrain as well as the navigation will be,” remarked Sonora Rally race director Darren Skilton. “They will likewise discover some of the unique characteristics of this country. For those new to Sonora, it’s going to be a learning experience.”