‘This stage might be one of those stages that will be the turning point for the fate of the rivalry,’ said Rafał Sonik at the start line of the third day of the Dakar Rally. The quad riders were out for over six exhausting hours. In the end, our competitor went up by another six positions in the general classification. Kamil Wiśniewski, who suffered from back pain, also arrived among the top 20 participants.
The less descriptive, or even laconic roadbook is on the tongues of almost all participants of this year’s South American Odyssey. At the beginning of this special stage, the longest so far, both the best bikers and the leading quad riders got lost. ‘That was the time when I could become the leader, though I made a mistake, too. But I remedied the situation much faster than my rivals. I crossed the river in the right place at the 40th kilometre, and after a minor correction, I found the right way. And this is why, until the neutralisation stage, I was among the top ten riders,’ said Rafał Sonik.
Neutralisation is a part of the access road between two special stages that the participants must complete within a specified time limit. Rafał arrived late for the second part of the stage – while driving within the speed limit, he was not able to make it within that time limit. The organizers noticed the problem and promised to review the logs from the navigation devices of all quads, and perhaps some of them will be given the lost time back. However, our quad rider does not think about it.
‘The most important thing for me is to make up for the lost time and to climb up the general classification, position after position. Slowly, but surely. This is what I focus on, and this is what fuels my driving strategy,’ he emphasized.
As predicted, the challenges of the third stage included not only the navigation or the distance itself, but also the weather conditions. The riders reached the niveau of 5000 metres above sea level. On the way, they could use raincoats, as many of them had to deal with a storm, heavy rains, hail, and storm. The temperature difference between the start line and the highest parts of the mountains exceeded 30 degrees! Interestingly, Kamil Wiśniewski did great in this hostile environment.
‘I felt much better when we left the heat behind us. I much rather prefer competing in the temperatures below zero. I had no technical adventures, and my back pain bothered me only twice today. I’m in a much better mood than yesterday,’ said the quad rider.
When asked about the first contact with the heights, he smiled. ‘I held my breath… but only because the views were simply breathtaking! Of course, I worried how my body would react to it, but it was great.
Ultimately, Rafał Sonik completed the stage at the 13th position, and Kamil Wiśniewski – at the 20th position. Quad riders are currently at the 12th and 22nd place in the general classification. The best time at the special stage went to Gaston Gonzalez, while Ignacio Casale became the new leader.
Thursday’s stage will be even more interesting. The special stage is 416 km long and will be fully held over the 3500 m above the sea level. The Dakar column will stay at this height for the next six days! What’s more, the route will be full of steep and large dunes, and the riders will have to exhibit great technical skills. The organizers predict that not all competitors will be able to deal with this challenge, so they prepared “option B”. It is possible to pass the dunes over by riding along an easier 50-kilometre-long route, but it will mean a penalty of 12 hours. The riders fighting for the top positions will not be interested in this solution too much…
Results of the third stage:
1. Gaston Gonzalez (ARG) 5:58.39
2. Ignacio Casale (CHL) + 4.41
3. Josef Machacek (CZE) + 9.56
13. Rafał Sonik (POL) + 28.34
20. Kamil Wiśniewski (POL) + 01:28.33
1. Ignacio Casale (CHL) 9:58.51
2. Gaston Gonzalez (ARG) + 4.37
3. Pablo Copetti (ARG) + 18.06
12. Rafał Sonik (POL) + 47.48
22. Kamil Wiśniewski (POL) + 02:22.37