The contestants at the Atacama Rally covered the longest special stage of the rally on Wednesday. After nearly 470 km, the first quad rider at the finish line was Rafał Sonik – it took him 5 hours and 33 minutes to complete the stage. He was happy not only with his result, but also with his day full of experiences.
‘I like stages like this, because nobody bothers me all day long,’ laughed the World Cup leader at the finish line. ‘From dawn to late afternoon I don’t take calls and I don’t respond to text messages. I can admire the surrounding landscapes and I can enjoy the drive.’
He emphasized that Atacama is a very unique desert in many respects. First of all, it is full of large open spaces that you can drive through for hours without encountering a living soul. It is also full of contradictions. There are places where you feel like in heaven, but a moment later you encounter eroded and uneven terrain left by former excavation sites and small mines where driving becomes a true nightmare.
‘Dried river beds at Atacama are the essence of off-road. We leave them to get onto open spaces that allow us to drive really hard. Even fesh-fesh is less problematic here, because, unlike in Argentina, it can’t be found among bushes. So, we can drive through it at high speeds. We must only make sure that the dust does not get inside the engine through the air filter,’ said Sonik.
The Dakar Rally winner conceded, however, that despite the pleasurable driving, the local contestants are unreachable for the European leaders. All because of their familiarity with the terrain. ‘They keep the roadbooks after the rally and they train at the same routes. Their orientation on the desert is fantastic. What we can do is make sure that we have better equipment and better service teams. Had the Dakar Rally taken place in Bieszczady, we would’ve had the same advantage. In this context, the 2015 win becomes even more valuable,’ he explained.
On Thursday, the contestants will face 202 kilometres of a special stage. ‘I think this stage will be fantastic! I’m looking forward to the sand and the huge dunes that are so characteristic of Atacama,’ ended Rafał Sonik with a smile.