Rafał Sonik will not defend the hard-fought Bedouin trophy from last year. On Thursday, during the stage from Jujuy to Uyni in Bolivia, his quad’s engine exploded. He was waiting for help for a long, long time, but nobody decided to take him on tow for 120 km of a special stage. He had to reach the bivouac with the help of the local transport, and as such, he said goodbye to the hopes of completing this year’s Dakar Rally.
During the first stage of the marathon stage Rafał Sonik had troubles with oil leaking in his quad. On the way to Uyuni, he took care of his fluids, but he kept going, and until the sixth check-point he had third time, gaining valuable minutes and catching up with the rivals, who also faced problems. But then, the bad luck stroked and at 4,593 m above sea level, next to San Vincente, the engine in Rafał’s quad exploded.
‘The engine lost all the oil and the quad could go no further. One of the quad riders towed me to the next small town, but he couldn’t take me further, because he had his clutch damaged. I waited at the end of a long straight section, at a place with a 30 km/h speed limit, so that everyone could see me. The locals brought me blankets and coffee. It was very cold, and later it started raining. I spent there several hours, until all quads and cars were through, and the trucks arrived. The trucks couldn’t tow me, because they wouldn’t see me in their mirrors. No participant decided to tow me 120 km through the mountains, so I had to reach the bivouac in Uyuni with the help of the locals,’ said Sonik.
Last year’s winner of the Dakar Rally loaded his quad onto a truck from a local silver mine with the help of Bolivians and arrived in Uyuni before 11 p.m. of local time. ‘No we need to stay calm. I have to shower and get some sleep. Nothing hurts, I don’t have any bruises, I’m in good shape. Nothing happened that would destroy my chances in another stages. This is what Dakar should look like. But a little bit more luck would be nice,’ said Sonik.
The time for analyses will come, but Orlen Team champion promises that the fight is not yet over. ‘From the short-time perspective the situation is awful, because this went down due to a failure that couldn’t have been prevented. But you have to remember that for the past four years I was on the top. How long could it last?,’ joked Sonik. ‘Now it caught up with me, twice. Had it not been the marathon stage, my service team would’ve repaired it on the first day, and had it not been for the mountains and the storm, somebody would’ve towed me to the finish line.
The quad rider and his team do not want to pack their bags and go back to Poland. They will reach the end of the rally in Rosario, driving along access roads with the convoy of technical teams. ‘We drive on, because we have to learn. In order to win, you have to be here. We will also cheer for the Polish participants who are still in the game,’ concluded Sonik.
PKN ORLEN supports Rafał Sonik’s participation in the rally.