Even though it was very hard at times and fighting with the leaders was not so successful, Rafał Sonik and Kamil Wiśniewski could congratulate one another at the finish line of the 39th edition of the Dakar Rally. The cooperation between the riders was great, and at the end, they both exhibited endurance, stamina, and fortitude. This gave them fourth and tenth place in the final classification of the super marathon, respectively. What’s more, our first-timer turned out to be the best quad rider among 4×4 vehicles.
The finish line of the last special stage was situated at the Rio Cuarto bivouac. And so, the competitors could experience the first bursts of euphoria and joy from completing the race together with their teams. Rafał Sonik reserved the first “high-five” for Kamil Wiśniewski.
‘He drove great, and it’s clear that he’s got the experience in how to drive such a heavy quad. He turned out to be very resilient, and interestingly, he did much better in the cool and wet mountains at heights than in the Argentinian heat. It was exactly the other way round for me. You can say that we complement each other perfectly. His assistance turned out to be invaluable during the race, when he detected a minor – but important – defect in my quad, and I could help him back when his electric installation failed. He’s a great competitor and he’s just experienced a true baptism of fire here. He passed this exam with flying colours,’ said Sonik about the débutante.
Wiśniewski himself is modest about his first time at the Dakar Rally, even though he managed to see through the best scenario to the end. He finished the race among the top ten riders, and he won the 4×4 vehicles category. This is, undoubtedly, the dream result. ‘I’m very happy to have won in my category. My priority was to reach the finish line, so I’m double happy. I thought that I won’t be saying this… but one Dakar Rally has just ended and I’m already thinking about the next one!’ laughed Kamil.
The 2015 Dakar Rally winner was the fourth rider this year, repeating his 2012 result. Over the past two days he did the thing that seemed impossible: he went up in the general classification by six positions. And despite that, he felt ambivalent at the finish line. ‘It would probably be unfair to say that I don’t feel unsatisfied with the fourth place. I’m still happy anyway, because completing the Dakar Rally means living your life well. You can’t always win, but you need to have your road up paved. I can see it very well. I’ll win Dakar again, it’s only the question of time and effort that I need to put in,’ he promised.
The six-times winner of the World Cup also joked that as far as he is concerned, the South American marathon could be much longer. ‘The second week of Dakar is always the best week of the year. This is why I think that Dakar should be at least three, or even four weeks long. Our quads get better and better, the mechanics are also better and better, we are more and more experienced, so driving 10,000 km is not as much of a challenge as it had been ten years ago. We come here because we love it, and Dakar Rally is a race for tough guys. This is why I’m happy and I enjoy each day, and I wish there were more.
This year’s Dakar Rally in the quads category was won by Sergey Karyakin. He was accompanied by Ignacio Casale (Chile) and Pablo Copetti (Argentina) at the lower steps of the podium. The Russian rider did not forget to say thanks to Rafał Sonik at the finish line. ‘I came up to him two days ago and I asked him if he has an exhaust to spare, because the two I had didn’t survive the hardships of the rivalry. He didn’t hesitate and gave me the part. And while it didn’t fit and I couldn’t use it, it proves the fair play spirit and the respect that is present among the Dakar Rally riders,’ said the winner of this year’s edition at the finish line, as he received his gift. The Polish rider gave him the t-shirt with the leader’s starting number, bearing the signatures of Rafał Sonik and Ignacio Casale, as a way of giving him the leadership. ‘Next year, you will sign it and keep it – or give it to another participant,’ said Sonik. Karyakin responded by saying: ‘I hope that it’ll be you that I’ll be giving it to.’
Among Polish drivers, Rafał Sonik had the best result this year. Dariusz Rodewalt was one position higher, as a mechanic of the Gerard de Rooy’s truck team. A great seventh place in the fierce cars competition went to Jakub Przygoński – our only representative in this category. After three of our bikers had been eliminated, Paweł Stasiaczek was the only one to reach the finish line, at the 81st place. Among truck drivers, Michał Wrzos also reached the finish line, as a mechanic with Dave Ingels’ Belgian truck team. Unfortunately, the bikers: Jakub Piątek, Maciej Berdysz, and Adam Tomiczek as well as Sebastian Rozwadowski, a pilot in the Benediktas Vanagas’ truck, did not complete the race.
At the start of this year’s 39th Dakar Rally, there were 318 competitors, and only 228 of them completed it. In terms of percentage, the quad category was the smallest one at the finish line, because only 22 participants arrived at the finish line in Buenos Aires out of the 37 that began the race. 47 out of 144 bikers and 23 out of 87 car teams failed to complete the race.
Results of the twelfth stage
1. Ignacio Casale (CHL) 40.24
2. Daniel Domaszewski (ARG) +0.42
3. Pablo Copetti +0.46
10. Rafał Sonik (POL) +02.01
11. Kamil Wiśniewski (POL) +02.40
General classification of the Dakar Rally:
1. Sergey Karyakin (RUS) 39:18.52
2. Ignacio Casale (CHL) +1:14.51
3. Pablo Copetti (ARG) +4:20.19
4. Rafał Sonik (POL) +5:33.29
10. Kamil Wiśniewski (POL) +8:06.09