DakarWorld Rally-Raid Championship

2023 Sonora Rally: Francisco Alvarez secures 2024 Dakar Rally entry

3 Mins read
Credit: Francisco Alvarez

Francisco Alvarez will cross off a bucket list item next January when he competes in the 2024 Dakar Rally. He earned his ticket to the race by winning the Road to Dakar at this week’s Sonora Rally.

Competing in the National Enduro class, Alvarez finished runner-up overall to Brendan Crow with a time of 17:56:38, good enough to beat Malle Moto winner Matt Sutherland by slightly under half an hour. Crow had won Sonora’s Road to Dakar in 2022, making him ineligible for a repeat even if he did not race Dakar the following year.

Alvarez won the final stage while Sutherland finished eleventh due to thirty minutes of penalties and thirty-three minutes back.

“You have to be careful with what you dream of because it can come true,” wrote Alvarez on social media. “Over ten years ago I began to shape my dream of the Dakar and here I am after having run one of the best races of my life with a direct entrance to that dream! I won the Road to Dakar at the Sonora Rally, still having a hard time taking it in, but it’s real! Thank you very much to everyone who followed the race and to all who have always supported me! I finished in the best way possible, winning stage 5 and gaining direct entry to that Dakar dream!”

Ironically, Alvarez’s RtD eligibility was originally in question as race officials were uncertain whether he and Car/UTV driver Jorge Antonio Cano Félix had registered for the class in time. After an inquiry from Alvarez, the Amaury Sport Organisation, who oversees the Dakar Rally, approved both of them. Cano finished second in his class.

His fellow RtD competitor and Freedom Rally Racing team-mate Ashley Thixton claimed two stages. Thixton, one of six FRR Malle Moto riders and pursuing a Dakar berth on his own, finished in third and nearly two hours back after having to overcome seventy minutes of penalties in Stage #1 and a crash in the fourth leg.

Sutherland, who is also running the following week’s Mexican 1000 as part of the Ultimate Ironman Challenge, was one of five Malle Moto riders in the Road to Dakar. Hector Guerrero was the second-best finisher in eighth overall; his time ranked fourth in the traditional Malle Moto results.

Ryan Nariño and Alexander Kachaev were the last riders to make the finish in Enduro and Malle Moto, respectively. Nariño’s race was marred by clutch failure after wheel bearing broke in Stage #2 and shot through the gear shift shaft, forcing him to fix the issue on his own when it caused the bike to leak oil and come to a stop. Kachaev soldiered to the end after crashing two days in.

Patrick Reyes, Étienne Gélinas, and Matthew Ransom failed to finish as they respectively retired in the third, fourth, and fifth stages. Reyes and Ransom suffered mechanical failures, the latter officially retiring with a battery issue in Stage #3 but was permitted to continue on a spare bike from his Off Piste Adventure team-mate Luke Stalker until the engine gave out on the last day. Gélinas, whose blueprint for Dakar 2024 has also included racing the Baja 1000 last November and the previous Sonora Rally, broke his collarbone and ribs in a crash.

“I quickly pulled my emergency blanket and made a makeshift tent using a bush,” Ransom recalled after the Stage #5 engine failure. “I was staying out of the sun and I was thankful Matthew Glade and Ryan Nariño for stopping and sharing some water before I could be picked up. That was end of the race for me, I crossed the line in the back of a pick up. 

“Overall I have had a great experience. I am looking forward to attempting to cross the finish on two wheels instead of four next year.”

The Road to Dakar, which is available at all four World Rally-Raid Championship legs, is given to the best performing competitor in bikes and SSVs with no prior experience at Dakar. While Alvarez secured free admission on bikes, Sara Price did so by winning the National Car/UTV class.

Road to Dakar Moto results

FinishNumberRiderTeamCategoryTimeMargin
1526Francisco AlvarezFreedom Rally RacingEnduro17:56:38Leader
2501Matt SutherlandMatt SutherlandMalle Moto18:24:08+ 27:30
3526Ashley ThixtonFreedom Rally RacingEnduro19:46:59+ 1:50:21
4532Ronald VenterFreedom Rally RacingEnduro21:39:54+ 3:43:16
5529Gregorio MartosFreedom Rally RacingEnduro23:45:22+ 5:48:44
6523Jatin JainDiespro AdventourEnduro39:17:28+ 21:20:50
7502Billy TrappM2 AV ConsultingEnduro50:04:34+ 32:07:56
8510Hector GuerreroMocedi Racing TeamMalle Moto51:38:03+ 33:41:25
9533Dwain BarnardFreedom Rally RacingEnduro55:36:48+ 37:40:10
10521Benjamin MyersBenjamin MyersMalle Moto71:32:47+ 53:36:09
11538Miguel DonovanGeek RacingEnduro80:42:00+ 62:45:22
12514Vladimir MalyarevichVladimir MalyarevichMalle Moto81:03:07+ 63:06:29
13505Ryan NariñoRyan NariñoEnduro104:58:31+ 87:01:53
14520Alexander KachaevAlexander KachaevMalle Moto119:10:28+ 101:13:50
DNF503Matthew RansomOff Piste AdventureEnduroDNFN/A
DNF531Étienne GélinasFreedom Rally RacingEnduroDNFN/A
DNF504Patrick ReyesPatrick ReyesEnduroDNFN/A
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Justin is not an off-road racer, but he writes about it for The Checkered Flag.
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