On the very first day of the Chile Rally, the Atacama desert showed its less friendly face to the contestants. The varied and difficult terrain, high temperatures and no wind had a huge impact on all contestants, favouring the most experienced ones.
Rafał Sonik was the second quad rider to start the stage, only a minute after the prologue winner, Gaston Gonzalez. The Argentinian contestant got cracking since the very first metres of the race and overtook two bikers, increasing his advantage over the Polish contestant slowly but surely. ‘At times, when the wind was strong, you could drive only ten metres behind another rider, because the dust was blown away immediately. But most of the time the air stood still, making any overtaking impossible in the thick and heavy clouds of dust,’ described Rafał, the World Cup leader.
Even in the long and open valleys he could only see a tiny drift of dust left behind by his rival, driving away a few kilometres ahead. There were still two bikers between them, who were an insurmountable obstacle. ‘He went ahead until the 70th kilometre of the stage, when I finally managed to get right behind him. I started to catch up with him, until I saw him standing, probably after jumping off a bank in a very eroded terrain. His quad failed and he couldn’t deal with it, he was very upset, so I stopped and helped him,’ said Sonik.
The contestants first marked the place and then they turned on a warning that showed up on the navigation devices of incoming contestants, so that nobody would hit the quad hidden behind the bank. ‘He looked quite surprised. He didn’t get hurt, and I didn’t have to stop, but this is not Dakar, we don’t fight for every single minute or second, so why wouldn’t I help a colleague reach the finish line?’ asked Rafał, rhetorically.
The unlucky contestant arrived at the finish line of the special stage on tow, while Rafał Sonik got his first stage win and got warmed up before the Tuesday challenge. The organizers promise that the second stage will be even more demanding, and the distance – over 400 kilometres – inspires respect in even the most experienced contestants.