The third stage of the Atacama Rally leading from Bahia Inglesia to Copiapo, though shorter than its predecessor, caused many problems. Navigating on the sands of the driest desert of the world has never been easy, but this time Rafał Sonik had to face an additional challenge – he had to find his way in a tangle of traces left by meandering bikers.
Even though the organizers said that the stage will be demanding and hot, it was very cold in the morning. Wrapped tightly in their jackets, they set off into the desert. Several dozen kilometres into the race, they basked in the sun near Medanoso – one of the largest dunes in the world.
Navigating here without mistakes, in such uniform surroundings and in the wilderness, turned out to be an art. ‘Everybody made mistakes today. Even the Chilean bikers, like Pablo Quintanilla or Ignacio Cornejo, who use this place as their usual training spot. In many places finding the waypoints was a true challenge,’ explained Rafał Sonik.
It was an additional challenge for him. ‘I set off for the day after most of the bikers, and it is not possible to catch up with them at such open and extensive spaces. And this is why each time I got near a waypoint, I encountered a tangle of traces left by the contestants who drove around and tried to find the right spot. It was hard, but it was also beautiful, so I can hardly say that I’m unhappy. It is for stages like this one that I love coming back to Atacama.’
The World Cup leader, as expected, had the best time in his class and half-way through the race he is on the way to writing a new chapter in the history books. No contestant from outside South America has ever won the Atacama Rally, in any class. If the Polish master manages to do this, he will also secure the fifth FIM World Cup in his career.
On Friday, the organizers planned a long special stage of 370 kilometres. On Saturday, the contestants will “only” have to cover a little over 100 kilometres. Everything points to the fact that the final results will be settled one day before the finish line will loom on the horizon.