During the Friday’s stage of Qatar Cross Country Rally, once again we saw a confirmation of the saying that cross country rallies are unpredictable and things can change very suddenly, changing in turn the outcome of the entire rally. Rafał Sonik drove 120 km of the special stage with a broken control arm. Despite that, he had the best time of the stage, as his rivals also had to deal with equipment failures. One of them was only ten kilometres short from becoming a leader!
The beginning of the third stage went as planned. Alexis Hernandez caught up with Rafał Sonik and they drove together for a longer while. The situation changed before the last waypoint. The Peruvian reached it alone, and… Rafał followed him, but 40 minutes later.
‘About 120 km before the finish line I heard something snap on the right-hand side. The front wheel moved further front, the angles in the suspension changed. I was almost certain that I broke the tie rod or the axle, but it turned out it was the control arm,’ he said.
According to the mechanics, a wheel hit a protruding stone or a rock at a high speed. As a result, the control arm slipped off the fastening. Sonik had to secure it temporarily with cable ties in order to continue. ‘I navigated over 100 km in this way. I had to be very careful, because each and every bigger shake could end up in breaking the entire front suspension and as a result I would not only fail to reach the finish line, but I could do a somersault over the driving wheel.
As the Polish quad rider drove 50 kmph, Kees Koolen had troubles with complicated navigation. Alexis Hernandez was leading, he calmly drove for the stage win and the leading position. However, the fates are fickle. At about 10 km before the finish line, a failure just threw him off his quad. ‘I saw stars,’ said Hernandez after the fact. Rafał Sonik passed him, as he was getting his bearings. Both riders met at the bivouac, and Alexis didn’t try to hid the tears of disappointment, as he lost the leader’s position and as a result – probably the chance for becoming the leader of the World Cup series.
This stage, despite these huge problems, was won by Rafał Sonik, who increased his advantage on the second to last day of the rally. ‘I can feel it in my arms, the quad was trying to swerve right or left all the time. It’s a miracle that I’m at the finish line. This is simply amazing!’ he said with feeling.
On Saturday, the rally’s column will face the last special stage of 343 km. The mechanics have a hard night ahead of them repairing the quad and Rafał Sonik will need to regenerate after the especially hard and exhausting day.
Results of the third stage:
1. Rafał Sonik (POL) 16:15.43
2. Alexis Hernandez (PER) +46.50
3. Kees Koolen (NED) +53.51