This year’s 39th edition of the Dakar Rally. is also the ninth one in the sports career of Rafał Sonik. Six-times winner of the World Cup, who is the only Polish rider to win the Dakar Rally – two years ago, arrived at the South America again to repeat his great result. At the ramp in Asuncion, he was welcomed as one of the favourites among the 37 quad riders.
On Sunday evening, just before midnight Polish time, Rafał Sonik drove his Yamaha Raptor onto the Dakar Rally’s ramp. He greeted several dozen thousand fans that had gathered before Palacio de Lopez, the presidential palace – which was the official beginning of another great adventure. The adventure, whose goal is to climb up to the racing top once again. Rafał tries to tamper the emotions.
‘Dakar Rally is your whole life condensed into two weeks – and we are only at the beginning. When the reporters representing local TV stations or global media ask me if I drive to win, I teasingly respond that I would take the second place without a blink, too. Why? Because I know that winning this rally in South America is a huge feat. For all the years that I did start in the race and failed to win, I returned home full of regrets. Wasn’t it the most beautiful way to the top possible, though? So I’m back and I’ll drive again to fight for the best possible result each and every day,’ he promised.
Before the competition begins for good, all competitors had to pass two-day-long administrative and technical check-ups. An ID band, which will stay on the wrist of each competitor until the end of the race, was an award for our endurance. ‘Check-ups are pretty challenging, but they are also a pleasure. They are the gate that we need to cross to get to the off-road paradise. This band is the symbol of this crossing, and I put on this band for the ninth time today – and Kamil – for the first time,’ explained Sonik.
Kamil Wiśniewski, despite this being his début, is doing very well in South America. Like almost each and every Polish quad rider, he began his adventures on a four-wheeler with off-road rallies. He is no stranger to the heavy rains that have been hovering over south Paraguay. ‘Rafał told me that during his previous rallies, he had experienced a full range of weather conditions, from heatwaves to hail and snow. I like mud, so I hope for a positive beginning of the rally on Monday,’ said Sonik’s racing partner.
The weather conditions and the heavy rains might be a threat to holding the first stage. The section leading from Asuncion to Resistencia in Argentina is almost 500 km long, but the special stage has only 39 km. However, this is the only special stage in Paraguay this year, so the organizers will do everything in their power for the rally to be held as planned.