Rafał Sonik won the second stage of Qatar Cross Country Rally. The penalty that Alexis Hernandez go for missing two waypoints a day before made the Polish rider the leader of the rally. Rafał Sonik has a little over half an hour of advantage over Kees Koolen, who occupies the second position. Even though the second round of the World Cup series is famous for its many traps and dangers on the route, Sonik had his moments of terror not during a special stage, but… on the highway.
The scenario of events during the second special stage seemed set before the stage began. ‘As we were waiting for the start, I talked to Alexis, who was the first one to start the day. He said it straight away that he won’t be running away from me. He thought that he might get lost and lose a lot by that, and if I make a mistake, he’s got a chance of winning the stage. This is a very sound strategy and I’m not surprised. Everyone here prefers to drive behind someone than to risk mistakes,’ explained SuperSonik.
This is nothing new for the defender of the World Cup title. He took to it like a duck to water. ‘If I was the one to tail another rider, I’d feel unsatisfied. It would be just “another day driven”. I had to stay focused at all times and the mental effort was equal to – or even higher – than the physical effort. I had a small crisis after 200 km and I had to slow down, but the Peruvian didn’t try to take advantage of it. He drove behind me without protest, and we caught a good strong pace along the last 70 km again.’
The riders had to fight against the wind. As the Polish master said, in the first part of the route he thought he’d gotten a flat tire. It turned out that Hernandez thought the same, because strong gusts of wind tilted the vehicles. At times, clouds of sands accompanied these gusts, getting underneath the helmets and lashed against the riders’ necks.
The Polish-Peruvian duo arrived at the finish line in concert, which meant another win of the Polish rider and an increase of the advantage by another two and a half minutes. Other leaders came a bit closer at mid-stage, but made more serious mistakes in the second half of the route than the two leaders, as a result, their loss to Sonik is now greater.
Exhausted, Rafał Sonik had to reach the bivouac and the access road turned out to be just as dangerous as the special stage. At a narrowing of the highway from three lanes, he got hit by a car that was driving on the narrowing lane. Quad swerved to the right, hitting another car with the sides of wheels, and then again hit the first car. ‘This heated up. The driver thought he would fit between me and the barrier… Alexis drove behind me and saw everything. He said I was very lucky. We were driving at 80 kmph, everything could’ve had a much more tragic outcome,’ he conceded, clearly relieved.
Half-way through the race, Sonik is in a perfect spot to reach for his fourth win at Qatar. Yamaha Raptor is working very well and the specifics of the race don’t allow Sonik’s rival to make up for their losses in any significant way. ‘On Friday, this will probably be the same. Only this time it will be Hernandez who will be the one to catch up with me, and we will drive together again. Sure, he might make a mistake in the first part of the stage, but I’m not going to run away at all costs. Patience pays off,’ he concluded.
Results of the second stage: