Rafał Sonik will be one of the iron favourites of the upcoming Dakar Rally.. Six-time winner of the World Cup was appreciated by the organizers of the super marathon, who awarded him with the highest start number among quad riders. And so, for the second time in a row, the Polish rider will set off into the South American wilderness as a leader.
Like every year, just before the rally fleet set outs on its voyage through the Atlantic, a press conference of the Dakar Rally was held in Paris, during which the details of the route and the starting lists were announced. As the Petronelli brothers from Argentina, the last year’s winners, will not be participating in the rally this year, the winner’s number of the last edition was granted to Rafał Sonik.
‘What does the 250 number mean for quad riders? It is the highest distinction but it is also an obligation. When my team and me appeared at the administrative check-up last year and we saw our number at the very top, we were truly proud of what we had accomplished. This year, we got the second chance and we are fully aware of what is associated with it. We will do our utmost best to take the second Bedouin with us back to Poland,’ said Rafał Sonik, who appeared at the Paris conference together with the entire racing elite.
The presence of another Polish surname on the list of quad riders is just as important piece of news as the fact that Rafał Sonik was recognized as the favourite by the organizers. Kamil Wiśniewski, ranking third in the 2015 World Cup series, and two-times winner of the World Cup in the Baja rallies, will ride with Rafał Sonik in one team. And so, our two riders throw down the gauntlet to the coalition of local competitors, whom “SuperSonik” used to face alone. Cooperation of both service team and mutual assistance on the road will help both riders in achieving a satisfying result at the finish line in Buenos Aires.
‘Kamil is a very talented and already experienced competitor. His attitude and character are just the right ones to allow him not only to complete his first Dakar Rally, but also to reach the finish line among the top ten competitors. I’m really happy that he accepted my invitation and that we will face this challenge shoulder to shoulder,’ commented Sonik.
‘I’m proud that I can début at the Dakar Rally at the side of a competitor who has already won that race once and also won six World Cup titles. It’s both a source of joy and a source of motivation to train even harder and to show my best side in January,’ said Wiśniewski.
The major rivals of the white&red duo will be the local competitors, headed by Ignacio Casale representing Chile. “El Perro” (dog), as the fans call him, tried to take back the World Cup title from Sonik, but gave up after the failed Rally de Sardegna. Even though this year’s starting list lacks the Petronelli brothers, Lucas Bonetto, or Jeremias Ferioli, Siergiej Karakin (fourth last year) or Nelson Sanabria from Paraguay remain a threat. Sebastien Souday (France), who won two rounds of this year’s World Cup series, will also be a force to be reckoned with in the fight for the top position. Interestingly, we will see a return of Josef Machack (Czech Republic), five-time winner of the rally on a quad.
During the conference, Marc Coma, the rally director – and a five-time winner of the rally – said that there will be many changes and surprises this year. Navigation will be made more difficult, as GPS will only indicate the direction of driving, and the remaining functions will be limited. Seven out of twelve stages will have sandy sections, and six stages will run for over 400 km, including a particularly exhausting and difficult marathon stage from La Paz to Salta, with a bivouac in Uyuni. At the bivouac, the participants may not be helped by their service teams.
The upcoming 39th edition of the Dakar Rally will begin on the second day of January, to end on the fourteenth day of January. Next to Rafał Sonik and Kamil Wiśniewski, the road from Asuncion to Buenos Aires will be the arena for Jakub Piątek, Adam Tomiczek, Maciej Berdysz and Paweł Stasiaczek (bikes), Jakub Przygoński (in a Mini), Sebastian Rozwadowski (pilot for Benediktas Vanagas, representing Lithuania), and Dariusz Rodewald (in a truck of Gerard de Rooy), as well as Michał Wrzos (in the Belgian truck of Dave Ingles). Ten Polish representatives in total. The participation of Marek Dąbrowski and Jacek Czachor in the super marathon is still hanging in the balance.