The first stage of the Qatar Rally looked exactly as Rafał Sonik predicted. Navigation was very difficult and the riders, who selected positions further down the starting list, were very fast to catch up with the first riders en route. In this way, Alexis Hernandez made up the very valuable six minutes, as he tailed closely behind Rafał Sonik since about half of the stage until the finish line.
‘It’s not easy to navigate in Qatar. Even if you compete here again, and again. All riders say so, but until you see it with your very own eyes, it’s difficult to imagine how complicated and filled with traps this route is. I got lost myself three or four times, but it took me not more than a few minutes to correct my course,’ commented the six-times winner of the World Cup – and the defender of the title.
Even the dune section, which concluded the special stage, did not offer any consolation and rest. If anyone was to hope that they could simply whoosh through the sand after the rocky and flat section, where they needed to concentrate, they would be very disappointed. ‘There were so many crossing traces on the sand. Each of us felt the heat and the exhaustion after driving over 300 km, so mistakes also happened in this section,’ said the Polish quad rider, who arrived at the finish line with the second best time.
The winner of the prologue – Alexis Hernandez – was six minutes faster. The Peruvian rider caught up with Sonik about half-way through the stage by following the rivals’ traces. Since then, he tailed him very closely. ‘Alexis was six minutes ahead of me at that time, so he didn’t need to risk. What’s more, his roadbook device broke down, and he couldn’t navigate on his own. He relied on me and you can say that I “towed” him to the finish line,’ commented Sonik.
‘This will be a very interesting combat,’ he added. ‘My mechanic, Jarek Zając, listened for a while how the engine in his quad works. And he’s got the ear for it! He said that the engine is tuned and strengthened, so if only it is possible, Alexis will surely try to take advantage of it.
Apart from Sonik, Jakub Przygoński – the fastest driver in the cars category – was also very happy after the first stage. On Tuesday, the riders participating in the Qatar Cross Country Rally will face just as exhausting special stage of 353 km. This time, Alexis Hernandez, the current leader, will be the first one to begin tomorrow’s stage.
Results of the first stage:
1. Alexis Hernandez (PER) 4:55.37
2. Rafał Sonik (POL) +5.59
3. Kees Koolen (NED) +27.38
1. Alexis Hernandez (PER) 05:00.54
2. Rafał Sonik (POL) +6.12
3. Kees Koolen (NED) +27.57