2023 Sonora Rally: Competitors shake down Mexico desert
As the third round of the World Rally-Raid Championship looms, Sonora Rally competitors spent Saturday performing final shakedowns of their vehicles as part of private testing.
A stretch roughly twenty-two kilometres in length was set aside for teams to test on, which was crucial for those unfamiliar with Mexico. Twenty-seven entries including current T1 points leader Sébastien Loeb and rival Nasser Al-Attiyah have never raced at Sonora.
“Today’s shakedown was only five km, but it was enough for us to get the setup right.” said T4 driver Rokas Baciuška. “Tomorrow is Prologue Day and it’s going to be full attack mode. It’s probably 38 degrees (Celcius) right now, and the rally will definitely be hot.”
The shakedowns marked the first time out for some new teams like Rebecca Busi‘s Can-Am T4 at FN Speed Team; her co-driver Sébastien Delaunay described the test as boasting “surprising” scenery due to the abundance of cacti that were “larger than trees, which must be carefully avoided…” The practice also came in handy at Kove Moto, where new factory rider Neels Theric noted the team’s usual rally bike suspension components got lost at customs with the team luggage and they will have to start the race on stock parts in the meantime.
“I am super happy to be back at a local event, especially for us American riders,” said three-time winner and RallyGP rider Ricky Brabec. “Our training week has been good, a little bit rocky, but good. Now we hope all the best for the Sonora Rally.”
Fortunately for the field, testing went smoothly without any serious issues unlike at the previous round when Kevin Benavides and Sam Sunderland suffered injuries during their practices that sidelined them for the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge.
“Today marks two months since my injury,” commented Benavides on Saturday. “I’m so grateful to be here now. Even if it costs a lot to sacrifice, I enjoy the process to get there.”
Besides shakedown and scrutineering, a rally school was held in the afternoon for new rally raiders in the afternoon.
The Prologue will take place on Sunday, 23 April, starting at 1:45 PM local time (Pacific). It will be a ten-km loop outside Hermosillo.