„I must say it was a real struggle but who would complain? I could only dream about such a good comeback to racing”, shared Rafał Sonik at the finish line of the Atacama Rally. After a seven-month break, the Pole has returned to the World Championship competitions with a bang, winning a place on the podium in his first rally.
The winner of the 2015 Dakar Rally had placed himself in a convenient spot before the last, and the shortest, special stage of the race. His third position was likely to remain unchallenged. Sonik didn’t let himself relax and celebrate too early, though. „It may seem that in cross-country rallies, 150 km is a short distance. Yet, during the Dakar Rally in 2014, I almost lost my second place, having broken down barely 60 kilometers before the end of the last transfer road. Thus, I’m fully aware you shouldn’t sell the skin before you’ve caught the bear”, said Sonik before the start of the fifth, final stage.
It was clear that the organizers made sure the last few kilometers of the rally offered no less of a challenge. The last stage turned out to be a real navigational riddle, with a maze of tracks on the ground and the mischievous spectators intentionally misdirecting the drivers. „It would be very stressful to be pressed by seconds here. Fortunately, that last and the largest sand dune over Copiapó has always brought me good memories. Two years ago at this place, I secured the World Champion title. Today, seven months after a long rehabilitation process, I finished my first rally and claimed the podium. It’s hard to imagine a better comeback to racing after such a complicated injury”, admitted Sonik.
Obviously, the third place on the podium in Chile was not won without blood, sweat, and tears. „The time to reenter the Dakar Rally has not come for me yet. I think I would survive, but the experience would be less than pleasurable, to say the least. I have a week now to regain my strength and let my overloaded leg rest. What’s really important, my knee doesn’t swell so much due to physical effort anymore. The tiredness and pain are there because my body has not reached its normal potential yet. However, my team and I have just made the first big step and now we are ready to set new sporting goals”, concluded „SuperSonik”.
Nicolas Cavigliasso, the runner-up of the last Dakar Rally, claimed the first place in Chile. Jeremias Gonzalez Ferioli, who had stood on the Dakar podium twice before, followed right after. Both Argentinians will compete against Rafał Sonik again in the Desafio Ruta 40, the 4th round of the FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship. The start is scheduled for Sunday, August 26, and the race route will lead from Tucuman to San Juan.
Stage 5 results:
1. Jeremias Gonzalez Ferioli (ARG) 2:15.51
2. Nicolas Cavigliasso (ARG) +1.57
3. Italo Pedemonte (CHL) +16.11
4. Rafał Sonik (POL) +32.07
5. Alexander Kotesky (CHL) +49.11
Final classification of the Atacama Rally:
1. Nicolas Cavigliasso (ARG) 18:15.01
2. Jeremias Gonzalez Ferioli (ARG) +1.36
3. Rafał Sonik (POL) +1:59.59
4. Italo Pedemonte (CHL) +31:21.50
5. Alexander Kotesky (CHL) +55:24.29
FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship ranking:
Veteran’s Cross-Country Rallies Trophy ranking:
1. Kees Koolen (NLD) 47
2. Rafał Sonik (POL) 28
-. David McBride (GBR) 28
4. Richard Brewer (NLD) 23
-. Alejandro Aros (CHL) 23