With each passing year, Dakar Rally becomes more and more difficult. After the race moved from Africa to South America, many people said that it lost its former charm. They couldn’t be further from the truth. While it is true that the riders do not race along the picturesque, Saharan dunes, but the race is no easier, by any means. Participants of the modern Dakar Rally must face huge temperature fluctuations, different heights above sea level and the accompanying problems, the terrain that chops and changes, difficult weather conditions and – of course – their rivals.
This is why this super marathon is still considered the most difficult cross-country rally of the world. Being fast is not enough to win – it might even mean saying goodbye to the entire race. What matters is tactics, persistence, patience, endurance, regeneration, and a proven and reliable team. All these elements are present in the “tandem” that will begin the fight for the joint success on 2 January. Rafał Sonik and Kamil Wiśniewski have created a duo that has all it takes to triumphantly wave the white&red flag at the finish line in Buenos Aires!
Sonik and Wiśniewski like the Petronelli brothers
Ever since quads are treated separately from the bikes, creating its own category of vehicles, five out of eight wins went to duos, whose members worked hard towards the joint success. We are talking about the famous Petronelli brothers from Argentina, of course. Marcos (three wins) and Alejandro (two wins) achieved great results thanks to working together. Rafał Sonik and Kamil Wiśniewski plan to follow in their footsteps.
‘I’ve been working with my team for many years and I know that this is where our great potential lies hidden. Now Kamil is joining in our group. We both raced each other and worked together during World Cup rallies during this and the previous seasons. He is talented and well-prepared, and he will fight for the finish line for the first time. If we are lucky, he might get a pretty good result,’ said Sonik, six-times winner of the World Cup title, about his colleague.
‘Two heads are better than one, so two quads are better than one,’ quipped Kamil Wiśniewski. ‘It is obvious that I’m going to Dakar to learn and to gain experience. Together, we will first of all work on Rafał’s winning the race. Things happen, and we can help each other out. Like during the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, when I towed Rafał to the finish line after his quad failed. We hope that this will not happen again, but in case it happens, we can count on each other,’ emphasized Wiśniewski, two-times winner of the World Cup in Baja rallies.
They worked together during this year’s Sardegna Rally. Dakar is to be another step – and also another stage in the development, which is to bear new fruit.
They say that Dakar Rally is a challenge for all riders that appear at the start line, but the measure of this challenge is different for each and every one of them. Some dream about reaching the finish line and often spend twice as much time as the leaders to complete special sections. Others are only interested in winning. And though Rafał Sonik belongs rather to the second group, he emphasizes every year that he will not keep all his eggs in one basket. He won’t risk his life for the win. The most important thing is to show the bravery and the teamwork of both Polish riders to the world.
‘I know that I simply have to get into my Dakar pace and ignore the rivals. They will be the ones under pressure. They will be the ones to try and run away from me, and the harder they will press, the more mistakes they will make. And I’ll take advantage of that. The message accompanying our participation is also more important than mine or Kamil’s result. There are only two of us against a coalition of locals that several dozen members. We put out a challenge. We go in to fight and to show that bravery is strong with us. We strive for the top and we won’t turn back,’ promised Sonik.
His rally partner, despite his first time at the Dakar Rally, does not hide his ambitions. ‘As I mentioned, we focus on Rafał’s result, but I won’t deny that I dream about finishing among the top ten riders. A year ago, a 4×4 quad managed to become one of the leaders. I’d love to repeat this feat, though – like Rafał – not at all costs.’
The great challenge that both riders simply cannot wait for, begins on 2 January in Asuncion, the capital city of Paraguay. Next, the convoy will drive through the northern territories of Argentina to Bolivia. Following four days of racing at heights, La Paz will be a place of respite for one day, followed in turn by the marathon stage on the way back to the tango homeland. The finish line is situated in Buenos Aires, and all those who survive the hardships of the race will arrive in Buenos Aires on 14 January.
‘We’d love to enter the ramp with white&red flags as winners. We know that we are ready to achieve this goal,’ emphasized Rafał Sonik.
From Dakar Rally to WOŚP (Grand Orchestra of Christmas Charity)
Rafał Sonik will face the wilderness of South America for the ninth time, and once again he will carry the WOŚP’s heart on his helmet. One day after the competition in the capital city of Argentina comes to its end, Poland will see the 25th final of this world-famous charity event. On this occasion, the only Polish driver to win the Dakar Rally decided to donate his 2009 quad for auctioning – the same one that he drove on and won a place on the podium on for the first time.
‘WOŚP is always with me during the Dakar Rally and also in other World Cup rallies. I carry it on my helmet and I support it with all my heart, though at a distance. We organise fund-raisers at the bivouac and we donate various sport souvenirs for auctioning. This year, I wanted to do something special. So I decided to donate the quad that was the beginning of my way to the top in the most difficult rally of the world. It is really unique,’ said Sonik.
The 2009 quad is Yamaha Raptor 700, which has been thoroughly remodelled by the service team working with the Kraków-based master rider. The frame is strengthened, it is equipped with additional gas tanks, and the entire electric installation is replaced. Apart form the engine, almost each and every element was tuned. This is why the quad was able to ride at up to 150 km/h.
The 2009 Raptor is being auctioned online until 17 January. You can see the auction at: http://aukcje.wosp.org.pl/dakarowy-quad-rafala-sonika-yamaha-raptor-700-i3865899
The money collected during the 25th final of WOŚP will be spent to save the health and lives of children being treated at general paediatric wards and to ensure commendable medical care to seniors.