Quinn Cody, No.1, and Ivan Ramirez, No. 2, coming through the Kino Cross waypoint. (Photo: Melissa Eickhoff)

Sonora Rally kicks off in Mexico (PHOTOS)

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We touched on one interesting rally yesterday on MotorSportsTalk and another cool one is going on this week in Mexico – the Sonora Rally.

The Sonora Rally is a rally raid and even has a Dakar Challenge for motos, which was announced in February as the event was selected by ASO as a Dakar Challenge event. A qualified moto winner can earn a free entry into Dakar 2017.

The four-day off road rally runs in Sonora, Mexico from April 3 through the 7, and includes the San Luis Rio Colorado and Puerto Peñasco.

On day one, Mark Samuels led Ivan Ramirez by 11 seconds (3:20:43 to 3:20:54) with Steve Hengeveld and Quinn Cody also within three minutes. Todd Jergensen led the car-national 2WD class.

On day two, Cody took the stage way over Hengeveld (3:27:31 to 3:27.37) with Ramirez and Samuels third and fourth.

Through two days, Hengeveld has a 22 second lead over Cody (6:50:11 to 6:50.33) with Ramirez and Samuels third and fourth. All bar Cody of those four are Dakar Challenge participants.

Here’s some early race images from the first couple days, which are fairly cool:

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Beyond the challenge of riding the terrain, is the navigation and all the gadgets that make it happen. In this case, for the the motorcycles, it is a juggling act of eyes up and staying on course… (Photo: Boyd Jaynes, @theboydphoto)

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Dakar Challenge rider Petr Vlcek (@wolfeyracing) stands out against the dry lake bed. (photo: Melissa Eickhoff @meickhoff)

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Peaks like this proved to be the best and worst part of many of the riders’ day. (photo: Jason Adams)

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“It was like driving on marshmallows out there!” – Dave Skyes, driver, No. 50 (Photo: John Rettie)

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Jon Steinhilber, No. 57, checking in at the finish of the stage. (Photo: John Rettie)

GAINSCO partners with JDC-Miller for Simpson, Goikhberg

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The bright yellow No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports Oreca 07 Gibson, nicknamed the “JDC Banana Boat,” will morph into the latest incarnation of the bright red “Red Dragon” for 2018.

The now GAINSCO Auto Insurance-backed No. 99 JDC-Miller Motorsports Oreca 07 Gibson will run the full 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season, and the new livery will be revealed at the Roar before the Rolex 24.

GAINSCO revealed last month it wouldn’t run its own team, having partnered with Bob Stallings Racing for more than a decade with great success in GRAND-AM Rolex Series competition. But it was still going to partner with a team and received multiple proposals from other teams. The initial deal with JDC-Miller Motorsports is one year for 2018 with an option for 2019, but both parties envision this growing into a multi-year deal.

The last few years the team has run only on-and-off, with a one-off appearance in the 2014 Rolex 24 at Daytona as Alex Gurney scored pole, but a devastating accident for Memo Gidley having left him seriously injured. Gidley has made significant strides in his recovery.

Since that point, GAINSCO/BSR moved into Pirelli World Challenge, running first a Hyundai Genesis, then a McLaren 650S GT3, and then a Porsche 911 GT3 R with Gurney’s longtime co-driver Jon Fogarty. The same level of success was hard to find and while the team scored several podium finishes, wins eluded them over two years.

Alas, this provides John Church’s quality operation a major supporter both from visibility and agent standpoints, as GAINSCO is one of the biggest at-track activators in the sport. Primary drivers Stephen Simpson and Misha Goikhberg continue for the full season with Chris Miller the third driver for Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup rounds.

A fourth driver will be named later (likely within the next week to 10 days), but won’t be Jon Fogarty, as Bob Stallings offered him the opportunity but Fogarty declined owing to other business commitments.

“We offered Jon Fogarty the opportunity, took a couple days (to think), he couldn’t feature anyone else driving but him… he has successful business ventures and that takes priority at this time,” Stallings said.

Church and Stallings. Photo courtesy of GAINSCO Racing

Stallings, Executive Chairman of GAINSCO, as well as the founder of the GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Race team, recently decided not to run his own race team, but is committed to continuing the legacy of the Red Dragon by partnering with an organization capable of a long-term winning program.

“We had many opportunities to continue our quest for championships and JDC-Miller MotorSports was an easy pick,” said Stallings of the Minnesota-based team. “John Church and John Miller have established themselves as a team to be reckoned with, even against the formidable competition in IMSA.”

“We are very honored to gain the support of GAINSCO Auto Insurance and to carry on the livery of the No. 99 Red Dragon,” Church added. “It was immediately evident that the GAINSCO folks are as committed as we are.  This is a tremendous opportunity for JDC-Miller MotorSports and we look forward to the season ahead.”

Andy Jordan, Sr. Vice President of Marketing and Business Development led the search for the GAINSCO’s 2018 racing partnership.

“We were amazed and flattered by the amount of interest we received from teams who felt their racing programs would be elevated by an opportunity to partner with us and run the famous “Red Dragon” livery.  There were several important considerations for GAINSCO; the team had to compete at the highest level, and it had to feel like the kind of family we could be a part of and believe in.

“JDC-Miller Motorsports was the team we kept coming back to.  They race prototypes, they are great people, they are committed to win and the parallels between JDC-Miller Motorsports today and GAINCSO/Bob Stallings Racing in 2006/2007 were abundant.  I couldn’t be prouder and more excited to join John and his team for the 2018 season and hopefully beyond.”

JDC-Miller is adding a second car this season, with Simon Trummer its first confirmed driver and Robert Alon having tested with the team at Daytona earlier this month. This car will maintain the “banana boat” livery and will announce the rest of its program later.

Church said there “hasn’t been a discussion” in terms of adding Bob Stallings Racing personnel to JDC-Miller’s lineup as it sits, but it could be integrated.

The JDC-Miller Oreca 07. Photo courtesy of IMSA