The 2018 Baja Rally came to an end after an eventful week of racing on the beautiful, but at times treacherous, Baja peninsula.
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SPECIAL STAGE THREE
The 2018 BAJA RALLY was one turn away from the podium, and it had only gotten wilder. Torrents throughout the day threw a wrench in Special Stage Three, cutting the course down at its gas stop as a safety protocol. But what the racers did experience was wholly different from what they’ve encountered all week. Friday was the organization’s very first expedition to the Sea of Cortez side of the peninsula.
Top competitors seemed to be taking turns at victory, as Colton Udall laid it down for the rest of the riders, setting a fast pace despite the pouring rain and muddy obstacles. Ray Dal Soglio finished six minutes short of the leader during his second rally, ever, putting him at an impressive second place overall. Special mention should be made to rookie Alan Brands, as well, who then was seated at ninth overall behind, and in front, of some truly formidable athletes.
“Today’s was a huge challenge for the racers and crews with the rain showers and shortened special stage. It really showed what we are all made of and inspires sportsmanship and toughness among the field.” – BAJA RALLY President, Scotty Bloom
Garret Poucher quickly moved his way to the top, putting to rest any concerns about his performance from the third day. He ended Stage Three in third and sat comfortably at sixth place overall by Saturday morning, only one second apart from John Deykes, who sat at seventh. Poucher’s teammate, the fresh-faced Skyler Howes – also competing in his second rally raid – has really made a name for himself, concluding the penultimate phase first overall. Fan-favorite, and Rally Comp wiz, Mike Johnson is rightfully perched at the summit, his hard work so far resulting in the third overall spot.
The UTVs had been battling ruthlessly for those first three positions with a surprising turn, courtesy of veteran Joe Bolton and his super sharp pilot Dave Peckham, pushing their way five minutes past Pelayo – whom so far had dominated the cars. But anything can happen on the racecourse… And there was still one more stage.
SPECIAL STAGE FOUR
The scene at BAJA RALLY’s infamous pool party was as vibrant as one might expect with the surprising outcome of Special Stage Four. After a long liaison from San Felipe, the competitors took off on their fastest stage yet! At rapid speed, the first finishers blasted past timing and scoring in less than 50 minutes. Disaster struck for UTV 111, as Bolton and Peckham found themselves in a ravine, despite all their efforts, and out of the running. In fact, due to an unfortunate series of events, all UTVs ended up with the dreaded DNF – except for class winner, number 124, L. Javier Pelayo.
It’s not all bad news. Two of the newest riders to rally raid came out of it all, triumphant. Skyler Howes, protégé’ of Baja legend Kurt Caselli and teammate of 2017 BAJA RALLY Champion Garrett Poucher, has nabbed his second first place trophy, at his second ever rally race. A great example of what he might bring to the coming Dakar Rally – to which he is seeking support from friends and fans. Ray Dal Sogio held onto the prestige of Special Stage Three after the final day in Baja, taking the next best accolade during his second navigation rally. As so many had hoped, Mike Johnson of Rally Comp maintained his vigor for Special Stage Four, leaving Mexico once again on the podium, taking Third Place for the second year in a row.
This year, the group is represented by several countries, varied skill-sets and experience, yet everyone in the mix has the heart of a lion. And they’ve proven themselves worthy of the task through every unforeseen challenge. Maybe this was their first time, their tenth time or their last time racing the rally, but this year’s BAJA RALLY is one they’ll never forget.