One second came between Rafał Sonik and Ignacio Casale at the finish line of the first stage of the Sealine Cross-Country Rally. The two Dakar Rally winners completed the entire stage as a duo. Even though the defender of the World Cup title tried to lose his rival, Casale kept up and tried to attack only at the last kilometres.
‘The first stage is always very difficult at any rally. And this is particularly the case at the Qatar Rally, where we have to deal with complicated navigation and learn it very fast. Luckily, I made only a few minor mistakes today,’ commented Sonik at the finish line.
After the end of today’s combat, Rafał’s quad did not resemble the same vehicle that he raced on at the desert – it was covered in mud. The storms that went over Qatar a few days ago left many water in multiple places, surprising several participants, who flooded their engines. ‘I had to be very difficult at times, in particular as it was me in the lead for 200 km of the special stage, and Ignacio kept close, leaving the navigation to me. He accelerated only at the dunes, at the end of the stage, where his Raptor turned out to be slightly faster than my Honda. Slightly, that is by one second,’ laughed SuperSonik.
This result of the Monday’s combat means that the World Cup leader will have the opportunity to catch up at least two minutes on Tuesday. This is the difference between them at the start. Only a small mistake or lack of determination on the side of the Chilean might be enough for Rafał Sonik to catch up with him. ‘This is my fifth time here and I know that it’s not possible to run away from your rivals here. In the past, me and Mohamed Abu-Issa used to fight like this. Now, everything indicates that it will be me and Ignacio that will fight for every second. I’m very curious about the upcoming days,’ commented Sonik.
The first stage was also the shortest stage that waited for the participants at the Qatar Rally. ‘Today, we were trying to set the pace to the difficulties in navigation. Initially, I didn’t push, but later I caught on a rhythm. I hope that tomorrow will be another successful day,’ ended Sonik, who will need to face 345 km on Tuesday.
Unfortunately, 20 km before the finish line Jakub Piątek, a Polish bike rider, had an accident. The young participant was taken to hospital by the medical chopper. All Polish car teams completed the stage: Marek Dąbrowski and Jacek Czachor (6th place), Aron Domżała and Szymon Gospodarczyk (21st place), Jarek Kazberuk and Robin Szustkowski (26th place).