Étienne Gélinas is on a crash course of major off-road events, which he hopes to wrap up by competing at the Dakar Rally for the first time in 2024. To get there, he plans to use the upcoming Sonora Rally on 23–28 April by competing in the Road to Dakar subcategory.
An artist from Quebec, Canada, Gélinas made the decision to pursue the 2024 Dakar Rally by competing in various desert races over the next two years, which he revealed in November 2021 as part of a short film he produced titled My Road to Dakar.
He ran the 2022 Sonora Rally and was the eleventh and final competitor in the Road to Dakar to complete the race, placing twenty-sixth overall. A month later, he went from stage-based rally raid to point-to-point desert racing when he made his SCORE International début at the Baja 1000, competing in the Pro Moto Ironman class. Gélinas crashed early on, eventually reaching the finish though was not classified due to cutting much of the course.
In February, he took part in the Coast 2 Coast Rally. All three aforementioned races are held in Mexico, with the Sonora Rally being adjacent to Baja California where SCORE events are held while the Coast 2 Coast is on the opposite side of the country.
For the 2023 Sonora Rally, Gélinas will ride in the Pro Moto National class for those not vying for the FIM World Rally-Raid Championship. As he has yet to run the Dakar Rally, he is also eligible for the Road to Dakar programme which rewards outstanding entrants with earn free admission to Dakar; 2023 Dakar Rally rookies Morrison Hart, Ace Nilson, and David Pearson competed with Gélinas in the 2022 Sonora RtD. Gélinas will vie with the likes of Jatin Jain and Sebastián Olarte at the 2023 edition.
All four rounds of the W2RC plus the TGRSA 1000 Desert Race are Road to Dakar legs in 2023. RtD participant Tobias Ebster won the Rally2 category overall at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge to earn his 2024 Dakar ticket.
Due to costs of the plane trip and registration, Gélinas launched a fundraiser to sell sponsorship with the goal of raising CAD$8,330 (€5,668.98).
“A large portion of the costs for the Sonora Rally 2023 are already covered by current sponsors,” reads a statement on the fundraiser. “This includes: race bike, preparation of the bike to meet FIM requirements, spare parts, spare tires and wheels, support vehicles, tools, fuel, protective equipment, access to the bivouac, all nutritional or hydration needs, satellite communication equipment…
“The contributors who support me for the Sonora Rally 2023 help me achieve my dream, which is to complete the toughest endurance event in motorsport: the Dakar.”