David Pearson secures Road to Dakar 2023 invite at Sonora Rally

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Credit: David Pearson

Upon receiving their acceptance letters in July, David Pearson and the American Rally Originals set an ambitious goal: become the first Americans to complete the Dakar Rally in the Originals by Motul category. With two months until the 2023 race, ARO has been busy competing in various events to sharpen their skills, with Pearson striking gold when he finished third in the Malle Moto class at the Sonora Rally to win the Road to Dakar invitation.

The Road to Dakar rewards the top-performing competitors at select races with free admission to either the upcoming or the following year’s Dakar Rally provided they have never run the race before. Races that fall under this label include the TGRSA 1000 Desert Race in June, the Atacama Rally in August, the World Rally-Raid Championship‘s Rallye du Maroc and Andalucía Rally (the latter does not give the invite for Bikes as it is not a desert event), and the Sonora Rally. While the Sonora Rally has four-wheel divisions, only bikes were eligible for the Road to Dakar.

Others to earn free registration via the programme include Luis Díaz Soza for winning the T4 class at the Atacama Rally, along with a trio of Stefano Caimi, Ruben Saldaña Goñi, and Toomas Triisa at the Rallye du Maroc.

Pearson was among twelve entries eligible for the Road to Dakar and finished third in Malle Moto (tenth overall) behind Jordan Huibregste and ARO rider Kyle McCoy. Ace Nilson, riding in the Pro category, was runner-up in the Road to Dakar and is also making the trip to Dakar. ARO team-mate Morrison Hart placed thirteenth overall and second in Enduro.

Of the five ARO riders heading to Dakar, only McCoy has prior experience as he finished sixtieth overall in his début in 2020. Pearson’s brother Jim Pearson and Paul Neff are also newcomers to the race.

Although Pearson had already been accepted for the 2023 Dakar Rally, the Road to Dakar provides him with some financial relief. Nilson told The Checkered Flag in August that total fees run over USD$100,000 (€99,194.50) and covers a multitude of expenses such as registration, lodging, bike rental, and crews. To alleviate the costs, Dakar-bound privateers including ARO, Nilson, and W2RC Rally2 champion Mason Klein have set up fundraisers.

“I’ve been pushing hard all year to get onto the Dakar ticket, and if all goes well, I won the Road to Dakar today,” said Pearson. “That’s coming off sixteen days of racing between the Qatar Rally, the Baja Rally, and Sonora, so I’m very appreciative.

“We have a hell of a team, the American Rally Originals. We’re all going to the Dakar. We’re going to break a record being some of the first Americans to ever finish in the Originals by Motul class in the Dakar in its forty-five-year run. Let’s go ARO.”

The Sonora Rally was won by Skyler Howes, who also topped the Bikes at the Rallye du Maroc. The event, which prides itself as the only “Dakar-style” race in North America, will join the W2RC calendar in 2023.

Howes, ARO, and Nilson will be among at least ten Americans who will race on two wheels at the 2023 Dakar Rally. Fellow American Ricky Brabec won the Bikes overall in 2020. Speaking with TCF, Nilson described the contingent as “all really strong riders. Aside from the factory pros of Skyler Howes and Ricky Brabec, Paul Neff, David, Kyle McCoy, all these guys are super good riders. Just really honoured to be included in that group.”

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Justin is not an off-road racer, but he writes about it for The Checkered Flag.
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