The 2018 Yokohama Sonora Rally came to a close on Friday as competitors enjoyed sunny skies and breathtaking views on the route south from Puerto Lobos to Bahia Kino. The day’s special stage offered navigational challenges, “carving a trail through the Saguaro cacti fields and ending at the seaside Seri Indian village of Punta Chueca,” according to rally director Darren Skilton.
In their third appearance, father and son team Todd and Kyle Jergensen (pictured below) beat the fastest bike by just under 15 minutes to claim the overall Yokohama Sonora Rally win, and as the senior Jergensen said at the finish, “Third time is a charm!”
Driver Kellon Walch and navigator Max Eddy Jr. took second place in the car division and first place for the UTV class. 2017 Sonora Rally overall car champions Eric Pucelik and Mike Shirley were able to earn a podium spot for overall cars with their third place finish, despite a nearly debilitating mechanical failure the day before.
For five days of grueling competition, Dakar veteran Scott Bright and “Road to Dakar” hopeful Skylar Howes swapped first- and second-place special stage finishes, vying for the overall bike win. In the end, Howes was able to edge out Bright for the title win in motorcycles. Howes also claims the coveted “Road to Dakar” prize: a free entry into the 2019 Dakar Rally in South America.
“This was an amazing event and Dakar has been a life long dream,” said Howes. “Sonora Rally has been a great training ground for the Dakar. I cant wait to test everything I now know next year at Dakar.”
Newcomer George La Monte was ecstatic to take a podium position and the third-place trophy. “This is my first time at the Sonora Rally and being on the podium was unexpected,” he said. “Now I know what I am capable of so i already have a plan to come back to win the 2019 Sonora Rally and ‘Road to Dakar.'”
Driver Butch Jensen and experienced navigator Tricia Reina showed a strong performance with a sixth place in cars. They made a big effort to learn more about navigation this year by attending the two-day Sonora Rally school held in San Luis this last February.
“I enjoy the stage rally format and the Sonora desert is a great platform for it. This year we brought race friends from the peninsula and its been amazing to share stories of friendly competition and reminisce,” Reina said. “The Sonora Rally culture is very special. The 2018 course pushed me as a navigator and we did advanced as a team and I am proud of that.”
Meanwhile in the Safari class, Yokohama’s Melissa Eickhoff and Yokohama athlete Sydney Olsen had a great adventure while testing exactly what the tires she represents can do.
“Being a tire person, the Sonora Rally has put the tire to the test in the kind of environment I like to play in outside of work hours,” Eickhoff said. “We’ve gone from highway to dunes, through deep washes, down fast dirt roads, rough whooped out trails, on beaches and silt beds. And Sydney is still smiling and isn’t swearing at me, so you know the ride has been fun!”
The “Seri Spirit Award” went to Hong Kong’s Jason Lan, for encapsulating what the rally is about: fully embracing adventure and never giving up.
Rally director Darren Skilton hopes the rally’s record-setting entries is an indication of the growing acceptance and excitement for an international-style rally raid event in North America.
“The combination of record entry, new terrain and a solid organization team made the 2018 Sonora Rally the best so far,” he said. “We are already working on making 2019 another amazing event.”
Stay tuned for a final report from writer and rallying novice Melissa Eickhoff and Team Yokohama Parkour and freerunning athlete Sydney Olson as they wrap up their Sonora Rally experience.