Rafał Sonik is going to Begin fighting for his fifth World Cup with the prologue that will take place at Formula 1 track – Yas Marina Circuit. During Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, which begins on Saturday, the defender of this title will face quite the competition, because his great Dakar Rally rival, Ignacio Casale, announced that he would participate in the full series of competitions. Kees Koolen, from the Netherlands, is also looking to obtain this title.
It will be the seventh time that “SuperSonik” races in the United Arab Emirates. However, he emphasizes, he knows this country better than he could have learnt only during races. ‘I spend about two months here every year. When I fly in to Dubai or Abu Zabi and when I drive to see the sunrise on the desert on the following day, I feel so privileged. The beginning of the day on the dunes here is one of the most beautiful things a man can see in the entire life. This is where I fell in love with the desert.’
Over the past three years, the Kraków-based participant dominated the cross-country ranking lists in the quad category. He won three FIM World Cups and three times he took a place on the podium of the Dakar Rally. This year, he was unlucky, but this is what drives him to fight further. ‘Following the rule ‘once you win, and once you learn’, we learned from the failure that happened in Bolivia. I know that it was impossible to foresee it, but this experience will help us avoid similar situations in the future.’
This year, we won’t see the greatest rival of Rafał Sonik so far – Mohamed Abu-Issa. The participant from Qatar was summoned to complete the mandatory military service and this is why he doesn’t intend to participate in this year’s World Cup season. ‘I hope that Mohamed will go back to doing sport and that we will be racing together in the future, because he’s a very good rider. Particularly on the desert. At one point he promised that he won’t give up until he beats me, so I hope that he will keep his word. Such a rival serves as a very strong motivation.’
Despite the absence of Abu-Issa, the Polish rider can’t complain about the competition. His great rival from the Dakar Rally, winner of the 2014 edition, Ignacio Casale, announced that he is going to race in the entire series in this season. The Chilean participant will start in the UAE for the first time, and this is why the quality of his driving in an unknown terrain remains a puzzle. ‘I’m very curious how he will approach the race. Will he ride carefully, leaving me to drive first like a miner who is at risk of triggering all the surprises, or will he fight hard for the win since the very beginning of the fight? The desert won’t support him this time, because this terrain is much different than the one he’s used to in South America. He also brought his Yamaha Raptor to this race, while I’m betting on Honda during the first two rounds, as usual. It will be quite an interesting fight, also in terms of this technical layer,’ promised Sonik.
‘Let’s not forget that Kees Koolen will also appear at the start line. He doesn’t speak about it openly, but his ambitions are huge. He’s not too young, he’s very experienced, and he’s got the mental strength of a multiple-time Dakar participant and a businessman. Recently, he said that as I’m able to win, he might be also be able to win,’ added Sonik.
The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge begins on Saturday with the prologue on the Yas Marina Circuit track. On Sunday, 3 April, we will see the first out of the five special stages, which are famous for