Rafał Sonik said many times that he is superstitious. He is dogged by misfortune at the first stage of rallies – if he survives it, it means he will reach the finish line. This year’s edition of the Dakar Rally has already shook its finger at him at the third kilometre of the route, when Rafał fell down. However, as the old saying goes: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”.
Monday’s special stage was a test for all participants. It was an extended prologue with elements of navigation. For some, it turned out to be the last day of racing. Sebastien Souday, a winner of two rounds of this year’s World Cup series, fell down and broke his wrist, which forced him out of the Dakar Rally, for the third time during one of the early stages of the race. Rafał Sonik had a much better luck. Even though he crashed a little, he only lost six minutes to the leader.
‘The roadbook lacks the designations that we are used to see in the World Cup series. Not all obstacles are described accordingly and we keep getting surprised. That was exactly it: I was driving in the dust, I hit a large bump with the left wheel and I got thrown off to the right. Luckily, this happened at a low speed, but many quad elements got bent, and I gained a huge bruise on my leg…’ said Rafał.
The dust, mentioned by the 2015 winner, was not insignificant. It was stirred up by the bike riders, who started the race before the quad riders. ‘I asked Marc Coma to have us start five, or at least three minutes after the bikers. He said no, so I set off 30 seconds after the last bikers on the starting list. But our leaders are faster than at least a hundred of these bikers…’ he emphasized.
The loss to the leader, Marcelo Medeiros (Brazil), who won this stage, with Gaston Gonzalez (Argentina) and Nelson Sanabria (Paraguay) on the second and third places, was slightly over six minutes. From the perspective of the entire rally, it is not much, but as Sonik said, it will be very important in the upcoming days. ‘On Tuesday I will have to overtake the slowest bikers again, because I will start behind their backs. With the bruise on my leg and the clouds of dust, I’m in for a difficult day. Like in 2010, when I had to go up in the ranking for several days. What else is there to do? I have to get my night’s sleep, take painkillers, clench my teeth and drive as best as I can on the following day,’ he said.
Kamil Wiśniewski, who completed the stage on the 17th place, sounds just as ferocious. ‘This is exactly the terrain that I trained on in Polish cross-country rallies. Dust, holes, and a lot of surprises. I felt great, but I made sure not to be reckless. The most important thing is that we reached the finish line and that we will fight for better positions as of tomorrow,’ he promised.
On Tuesday, the riders will begin their day in Resistencia and will drive to San Miguel de Tucuman. This stage will be 803 km, with 275 km of a special stage.
Results of the first stage:
1. Marcelo Medeiros (BRA) 32.53
2. Gaston Gonzalez (ARG) +1.02
3. Nelson Sanabria (PAR) + 1.39
17. Kamil Wiśniewski (POL) +3.17
25. Rafał Sonik (POL) +6.45