According to the organizer’s data, almost one million people watched the official start of the 40th edition of the Dakar Rally from the center of Lima. Rafał Sonik and Kamil Wisniewski crossed the starting line shortly after 8:00am local time and went off straight to the first stage of the raid. While the Polish quad riders swept through the 20-mile of the opening stretch with expected speed and confidence, there were some complications.
After rising at the crack of dawn, getting raid equipment ready, and collecting quads from the secure holding area, the racers got a swift kick in the butt for good luck, and headed to the starting line in the center of Lima. Looks like this year’s rally is planned to challenge the contestants right from the beginning. After greeting the lively Peruvian audience, the convoy steered towards Pisco. The route was 150 miles long, crowned with a twenty-mile special stretch.
“Peru has obviously been waiting for the Dakar. Thousands of fans crowded in the streets during the opening ceremony. The Dakar town was packed with people during the previous day, which meant endless lines and huge traffic. There were also a plenty of spectators along the race route”, reported Rafał Sonik.
The short special stage was designed to give the competitors a small foretaste of the next four days in the sand. Interestingly, it was not the precarious sunny dunes, which the organizers had warned them against, that created most difficulties for the racers, but the navigation through the terrain. “This is a curious situation! Alex Hernandez, who told me he came to ride in this desert at the weekends to practice, placed quite far in the ranking. I lost three minutes looking for the waypoint myself. What’s more, the spectators were giving misleading directions and I bet a lot of riders got confused,” continued the winner of the 2015 Dakar Rally.
As planned, Rafał Sonik covered the distance calmly yet surely, keeping close to his strongest rivals. Ultimately, he finished the race 5th, losing 4 minutes to the winner of the prologue stage, Igancio Casale. The second to cross the finish line was the last year’s favorite, Siergiej Karjakin, with one-minute loss to the Chilean leader, and Pablo Copetti was third. Initially, Kamil Wisniewski finished the desert sprint 4th, but received a 20-minute penalty and dropped to the 33rd position in the standings.
“Today’s stage was short but full of twists and turns. I will probably receive a penalty for omitting one of the waypoints, but I decided to focus on an intense and fast ride rather than lose too much time looking for it. I hope this is my first and the last penalty in this Dakar race,” said Kamil Wisniewski before the results were announced.
Sunday is the first day of the proper race. The contestants will venture on the 160-mile loop through the sand dunes around Pisco. Ignacio Casale will be the first to start the second special stage. “It’s quite clear that the pathfinder has the hardest task in this desert. The followers, who are able to see the tracks, will most certainly ride faster and steadier. So strategically, my position is very advantageous,” concluded Rafał Sonik.
Stage 1 Results
1. Ignacio Casale (CHL) 27.32
2. Siergiej Karjakin (RUS) +1.00
3. Pablo Copetti (ARG) +2.59
4. Nicola Cavigliasso (ARG) +3.08
5. Rafał Sonik (POL) +4.01
6. Kees Koolen (NLD) +4.03
7. Gustavo Gallego (ARG) +4.41
8. Simon Vitse (FRA) +4.44
9. Tomas Kubiena (CZE) +5.00
10. Jeremias Gonzalez Ferioli (ARG) +6.02
33. Kamil Wiśniewski (POL) +22.38