It was a long, complicated special stage, with a section of irregular dunes that were difficult to clear. Despite the dangers, Rafał Sonik completed the stage without major adventures and retained the leading position, which he gained on Sunday in the wake of a surprising decision of the judges.
A few hours after the first stage ended, the judges announced the official results, according to which Ignacio Casale received six hours of a penalty for accepting prohibited help during the special stage. The Chilean participant suffered from a failure of the oil tank, and as he wanted to continue to fight, he had to top it up. Unfortunately, that cost him the win. To make matters worse, his engine exploded before the beginning of the stage, and he couldn’t start the stage at all…
However, the defender of the World Cup title couldn’t be sure of his win, because he, too, found himself in trouble. ‘Late at night it turned out that my engine got damaged. There was a risk that I wouldn’t reach the finish line at all. My mechanics – Jarek Zając and Ryszard Sokołowski worked all night long and replaced the turret, the cylinder, and the piston. They also did some work on the shock absorbers. This only proves that nobody wins the race at the beginning and that anything can happen,’ commented Sonik.
The participants started the second day of the rally with a common start. Bikers and quad riders went off into the dunes in 15-person groups. The desert was once again filled with traps. The rainy and windy weather in the region changed the terrain beyond recognition. In these conditions, it was Kees Koolen who was the fastest quad rider, who was faster than Sonik by a only a minute and a half.
However, the Dutch rider failed to complete the yesterday’s stage, so despite winning the stage, he is far behind the leader.
‘We had sections today that allowed you to rest a little, but for the most part, we had to clear very variable and irregular dunes. There was no way to catch that even driving rhythm. I had one moment that made my hair stand on end, but apart from that, I had no major adventures. What I wanted was not to make mistakes and to keep my result at the finish line,’ commented Rafał Sonik at the finish line.
On Tuesday, the organizers have arranged the longest special stage to take place, which has just under 300 km. The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge old-timers say that this – and the next – stage will be the ones to decide the winner.