During the Argentinian part of the Dakar Rally, Rafał Sonik’s fans monitored the changing results of the quad category with unease. The Polish competitor was missing from the ranks of leaders, but at the border with Bolivia, during the short neutralisation section, it turned out that it was a failure of the organizer’s equipment. The 2015 winner had the seventh time and once again climbed up by four positions in the general classification, making up for another ten minutes lost to the leader. Kamil Wiśniewski arrived at the finish line with the 19th best time.
On Thursday, the Dakar riders ventured into the lands that have never seen the Dakar Rally rivalry to date. The route led through huge, very steep dunes overgrown with bushes and grass. During the reconnaissance, the organizer could not drive through these mountains of sand, but despite that, the route of the special stage led straight through them, to make the challenge even more challenging.
Knowing that, Rafał Sonik’s team and some fans chewed on their nails, nervously. The Polish rider failed to appear on several control points, and the organizers provided no information. It turned out that the “invisible” master had a rollover. He was lucky, though…
‘I was driving along the edge of awful, overgrown dunes, and I had to get down somehow. I began to traverse, and at that moment my right front wheel caught on a bush. I went up into the air, I did eight somersaults through my side, and I stopped at the bottom of the gorge. As I was going down, I was trying to cover myself with my arms, wondering when the quad would fall down on me. Luckily, it just hang there, on that bush, with its rear wheels half a metre over the ground. I was incredibly lucky,’ said the quad rider. He knew what he was talking about.
During the fourth stage, last year’s winner Toby Prince, Armand Monleon, or Alessandro Botturi dropped out. They are all experienced bikers – and they all had to be taken off the route by medical choppers. ‘Marcelo Medeiros withdrew after breaking his collarbone, Gaston Gonzales has damaged his quad and he’s not in a too good condition himself, Pablo Copetti has spent a lot of time next to his broken ride, Josef Machack is missing from the results, and Sergey Karyakin made it to the finish line by miracle, having his front tire placed on the rear wheel… In this context, I’m truly lucky.’
Apart from the adventure among the dunes, Rafał Sonik has not made any major mistakes, which gave him the eighth result at the finish line, moving him to the 9th position. Sergey Karyakin is the new leader, with Rafał Sonik slightly over 37 minutes behind him. ‘I’m curious whether he’ll deal with the pressure of being a leader,’ wondered Rafał Sonik.
Kamil Wiśniewski is consequent in attaining his goal. ‘During the first part of the stage I had to drive slowly and carefully to validate all control points. Later, I could speed up a little,’ said the débutante at the finish line, enjoying his 19th result and climbing up to the top 20 (18th place).
Dakar Rally becomes harder and harder with each day. On Friday, the competitors will go on a journey to Oruro that will be 692 kilometres long. The special stage, planned over 447 kilometres, is to be one of the most challenging ones. Two sections of dunes and the heights will be the main two obstacles on the way to the finish line.
Results of the fourth stage:
1. Walter Nosiglia (BOL) 6:06.22
2. Sergey Karyakin (RUS) + 11.28
3. Daniel Domaszewski (ARG) + 19.12
8. Rafał Sonik (POL) + 31.33
19. Kamil Wiśniewski (POL) + 01:36.48
1. Sergey Karyakin (RUS) 16:18:42
1. Ignacio Casale (CHL) + 0.28
2. Axel Dutrie (FRA) + 3.00
9. Rafał Sonik (POL) + 37.07
18. Kamil Wiśniewski (POL) + 02:43.44