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Sonora Rally Stage 5 - The Race for the Podium!

Posted by Matthew Glade on
Sonora Rally Stage 5 - The Race for the Podium!

Day 6, SS5 & Finale: The Desert Makes ‘Em Honest

Had you blinked, you would have missed the whole thing. The speeds in Special Stage 5 weren’t blazing, they were a mid-August forest fire in Arizona. Predicting a fast finish, the organization pushed back the start times an hour, hoping the first bikes would arrive later than the original 11:00am estimate. Ricky Brabec [#1, Monster Energy Honda], Skyler Howes [#2, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna], Jose Ignacio Cornejo [#4, Monster Energy Honda], Kendal Norman [#12, JCR Honda], Mason Klein [#6] and Justin Morgan [#10, SLR Honda] were all shaking hands and taking photos under the Yokohama arch by 10:30am. And it wasn’t long until the middle of the pack saw the proverbial checkered flag themselves. From minute one, the wide, flat, dusty grid system cut into the wastelands outside of San Luis Rio Colorado offered less vistas and pretty horizons than a runway to blast off from. It soon smoothed out into a small dry lakebed, multiplying the roost production ten-fold. But this wouldn’t be a true desert rally if the stage didn’t offer its climactic end in the dunes. Reminding us how diverse these sand oceans can be – and these were no exception – this section might not have been grueling like Specials Three and Four, but these camel-colored hills added their own flavor. Big but not massive. The mountains looked like they were sliced in half and divided into different parts of the valley forcing the vehicles to carve clever paths across the steep cliff faces to reach their next waypoints. Flowing, uncomplicated, the ride ended at the desert floor, guiding vessels to Rancho Tabachines through Northern Sonora’s badlands.    

The Sonora Rally was five days, five roadbooks. It was a long week. Definitely felt longer than five days. But we made it to the end, no injuries and we made it to the top of the box. Congratulations to Skyler, my teammate, Norman and the rest of the competitors who finish. We’re definitely looking forward to next year. Thanks to the organization for putting together a race close to home so we can come out here, practice reading roadbooks and training.” – Ricky Brabec #1, Monster Energy Honda

UTVs have waged their own mini war all week. Old colleagues turned on-course rivals. But most of the teams contended with themselves. Trying just to stay hydrated in the blistering sun when everything goes according to plan. However, in rally, a plan is hardly simple to execute. Bill Conger and Amy Feistel [#61] broke a CV Axle…Twice. Sara Price and Kellon Walch [#52, Polaris RZR] suffered a mysterious electrical issue on a daily basis – and still pumped out decent finishing times. By mid-week, only four of eight remained in contention, a lot which could be blamed in part by the weather. It wasn’t all bad. Underdog and former moto pro Max Eddy Jr. stunned everyone, even himself perhaps, when his single-seat RZR won a stage, with promise to continue the pattern. But after long, monumental battles with the Matlocks in the final special, plus an excruciatingly long deliberation, an inquiry from Wayne Matlock was accepted and Eddy Jr. hopped the border and lined up next to his buddy as a groomsman but unfortunately not the victor. However, his performance this year is sure to acquire the right attention, and there’s much faith he’ll achieve all of his goals quite soon. Kristen Matlock, accompanied by Terry Madden [#54, Polaris RZR] were pleased at claiming the third step on the podium although, ever the competitor, the fairer of the Matlocks has absorbed all that can learn from this experience so she can come back stronger, faster and cleverer than ever. Wayne Matlock and Sam Hayes, like Eddy Jr., have been volleying back and forth with the organization to challenge any possible errors with results, penalties and the like. This is common among factory teams but doesn’t make life easier on anyone else – at least anyone who’s on the edge of their seat waiting to celebrate their favorites. All in all, the cars gave one hell of a show. Ultimately, the victors are as deserving as the could-have-been’s, but fate chose who they chose. And the history has already been written.

Happy to finish the rally in one piece. I had a great time, so hopefully we come back here to Mexico next year. Everyone has treated us so well, and I had a lot of fun!” – Jose Ignacio “Nacho” Cornejo #4, Monster Energy Honda

With no contest, Brabec stole the show with 13 minutes to spare. His comrade and career (friendly) rival Skyler made a valiant effort, enduring a number of uncontrollable interruptions throughout the week, and still managing to make his new Rockstar Husky family proud. A 10-minute gap span between Howes and first-time Sonora Rally competitor “Nacho” Cornejo who, despite similarly unforeseeable hiccups, will travel home to Chile third in the standings. With much contest, Wayne Matlock and Sam Hayes [#55, Polaris RZR] took the trophy after a tremendous fight on the racecourse with Eddy Jr., Casey Currie and Sean Berriman [#51, Monster Polaris RZR] and wife Kristen. From every angle, there was action, heartbreak, triumph and unspeakable joy. 

There were many challenges, but altogether we’re very happy with how the event turned out. In true rally fashion, we pulled together all the resources and manpower we had available, and to be able to host this beloved competition, bringing a passionate community together again after very trying times. We couldn’t do it without the teams, the volunteers, the staff and all the sponsors that have and continue to take a chance on us. The goal is to offer rally raid lovers a high-quality race right here in North America that provides a taste of Dakar.” – Darren Skilton, Sonora Rally Race Director

The final stage of a rally is a little different. It’s not just about working for what’s to come; it’s about reflecting on what was accomplished, what was missed and what moments were comprised to bring you to the moment you’re in now. This act, or skill, is something all the elite athletes possess – the ability to observe oneself and learn, quickly. You could see it happen in each new stage. Every misstep taken to consideration and new plans devised. What makes a great racer? Some would argue talent, fearlessness and confidence. But, at least in this format, one could say that talent only gets you so far. And that fear is the only way to truly find your courage. Or that confidence shouldn’t be a blanket statement and knowing your best traits and the worst are what make you well-rounded, resourceful and efficient. But if these components are the organs and the limbs of the rally beast then, as with any complex living organism, then it’s heart which makes the whole thing work. And everyone here, we can attest, had just that


Ø Today was long in distance for a “last” stage and yet the shortest in time. Even with an hour delay at the start, riders still came in over half an hour before the original estimated time. Led by Ricky Brabec, who had been breaking the sound barrier all week, it’s no wonder the first six racers managed speeds well beyond expectation.

Ø The 2021 Yokohama Sonora Rally, presented by Method Race Wheels, almost didn’t happen. In the height of the pandemic, plans for a March send-off seemed nearly impossible. Regulations and new initiatives in both America and Mexico threatened to keep the two countries segregated. A circumstance the rally’s Canadian friends are still dealing with. But abbreviating the typically seven-day event to six, and pushing the dates back to May, allowed the organization to negotiate permits, protocols and roadbooks.

Ø This year boasted the most factory racers ever at the event. With eight teams in the lineup, the rally welcomed a smattering of elite athletes who set the bar very high. Similar first, was having all the (only) Factory Rally pros representing the USA in one place. It was a moment to be proud of. Not only that, but the event was also grateful to have Ricky Brabec’s teammate at Monster Energy Honda, Jose Ignacio “Nacho” Cornejo, join the group of tremendous talent.

Ø Maybe last, but certainly not least, this has been the only year since its inauguration that the rally welcomed a Quad pilot. Mauricio Segura showed everyone just how well the ATVs can contend. The rally hopes he, and other racers like him, will show up again for another great competition!


Wes VanNieuwenhuise #5, ROTTWEILER PERFORMANCE: “Today was the final stage of the Sonora Rally, I had an awesome day. It was probably the most fun day of the rally. We had a long day yesterday, but I have to give a shoutout to my team, Rottweiler Performance. I had an awesome bike the entire week. And thanks to my dad, Cyclops Adventure Motorsports, and Konflict Motorsports. All in all, I had an awesome week. Looking forward to the ceremony tonight.”

Mason Klein #6, Pro: “Today’s stage was really fast with some good technical navigation in there. It was also pretty short, which means there wasn’t much time to make up or lose time, which was good for me. I was able to finish the stage and I believe I’m in 5th. I’m really happy about that.”

Casey Currie #51, Monster Polaris RZR: “The finish line at the Sonora Rally. It was a brutal year, but we had a great time. Excited already to come back and just do it again. But overall it was a total blast. I give it up to Sonora and all the guys who came down and put this show on the road. We’ll be back next year to try to conquer it. We took some stage wins but not the overall this year.”

Gee Motzkin #17, Enduro: “As expected, the weather was hot, especially in the dunes. I think altogether it was a good rally. I wish I could finish, but I overheated yesterday in the dunes, which is understandable. Just happy to be back in the bivouac with the guys. And the rally was awesome. I’ll definitely be back!”



  1. #4 Jose Ignacio Cornejo, MONSTER ENERGY HONDA
  3. #10 Justin Morgan, SLR Honda & San Diego Powersport
  4. #1 Ricky Brabec, MONSTER ENERGY HONDA
  5. #12 Kendall Norman, JCR HONDA
  6. #6 Mason Klein, Pro
  7. #9 Scott Bright, Pro
  8. #5 Wes VanNieuwenhuise, ROTTWEILER PERFORMANCE
  9. #11 Mike Johnson, Pro
  10. #23 Nathan Rafferty, Pro


  1. #52 Sara Price and Kellon Walch, Polaris RZR
  2. #54 Kristen Matlock and Terry Madden, Polaris RZR
  3. #55 Wayne Matlock and Sam Hayes, Polaris RZR
  4. #57 Max Eddy, Pro



  1. #1 Ricky Brabec, MONSTER ENERGY HONDA
  3. #4 Jose Ignacio Cornejo, MONSTER ENERGY HONDA
  4. #12 Kendall Norman, JCR Honda
  5. #6 Mason Klein, Pro


  1. #52 Sara Price and Kellon Walch, Polaris RZR
  2. #55 Wayne Matlock and Sam Hayes, Polaris RZR
  3. #57 Max Eddy, Pro
  4. #54 Kristen Matlock and Terry Madden, Polaris RZR


  1. #12 Kendall Norman, JCR Honda
  2. #6 Mason Klein, Pro
  3. #10 Justin Morgan, SLR Honda & San Diego Powersport
  4. #16 Ace Nilson, Privateer
  5. #18 John Henson, Privateer


Justin W. Coffey & Kyra Sacdalan @WESTx1000 Facebook 


“If you get far enough away you’ll be on your way back home.” - Tom Waits

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