Off-Road Assassin

This Looks Like One Groovy Rally

After talking to some of the folks who make the annual Sonora Rally happen, I really want to get in on it to try off-roading in a corner of Mexico that’s nothing like Baja. But for now I’m really, really digging the score and aesthetic of the highlight reel.

The Sonora Rally is a massive navigation rally in the style of the Dakar. Basically, people compete in a race across a huge expanse of land and only have a turn-by-turn “road book” to guide their way.

To run a race like this, you need to be fast, cartographically inclined and have the herculean endurance. This event in particular has big (BIG) sand dunes, rough desert tracks and a whole lot of heat.

“The roads look like Baja did 30 years ago.” Darren Skilton, one of the event’s founders, told me over the phone.

2018 marked the fourth Sonora Rally, which had a cap of 50 competitor entires. People showed up to race on bikes, UTVs and modified SUVs. And yes, there were a couple Isuzu VehiCrosses in the mix.

Stages in the Sonora Rally are short, about 100 miles a piece, making the event a little less logistically intimidating than the Dakar Rally. But racers still get to compete in the same style, and drive over Ergs–rare “seas of sand” with giant dunes you’d only expect to find in the Sahara.

Rally organizers don’t allow pre-running (taking a reconnaissance lap of the course before the race), so racers are basically running one turn at a time, like navigation rallies are meant to run.

Skilton said he hopes to grow the event by “10 entries a year” so I guess we can expect to see 60 vehicles throwing down in next year’s event. As far as wide-open off-road rally racing goes, this seems like a pretty sweet deal. Maybe I can scam a UTV off of somebody to get involved next year.

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