The cross-country FIM World Cup series will be opened – as usual – by Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. The competition in one of the most prestigious and the most competitive rallies in the calendar begins this Saturday. There are 17 quads on the starting list, including two Polish representatives. Rafał Sonik and Kamil Wiśniewski decided to join forces once again.
The cooperation of these two Polish quad riders proved itself useful during the last Dakar Rally. The competitors supported each other in repairing their machines during the marathon stage and helped each other on the road. They decided to build on it during the World Cup rallies to fight for the places on the podium of the next rallies – and also to help them prepare for the next year’s 40th edition of the South-American Odyssey. They began the new season by testing the machines together.
‘For the past few days, me and Kamil have been driving through the deserts of the United Arab Emirates, covering several hundred kilometres. For safety reasons, we haven’t ventured into the area where the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge is to take place, as it’s very hot there and without medical support, it’s better not to go there during the day,’ commented Rafał Sonik.
‘We trained at an area that is situated about 100 km away from Dubai,’ he continued. ‘The desert here is beautiful, the dunes are simply fantastic, and to top it all off, we were lucky, because it rained just before we flew in, so the surface was relatively hard and driving was quite pleasurable. Now, we are in for prologue and five stages of driving along the sand that hasn’t seen even a drop of water, so it will be much harder.’
The six-times winner of the World Cup has the chance to go down in the history of Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. If he wins, he will be the first quad rider who did it three times. However, the road to the top is rocky and steep. It’s enough to take a look at the number of rivals. The quad starting list has 17 names, including four riders from the new Astana Motorsport team, a very experienced rider – Kees Koolen (the Netherlands), a friend from Dakar – Alexis Hernandez (Peru) and a strong guard of local participants who know the desert like the back of their hands. ‘We’re not backing out and we’re not going to play it safe. We’re going to fight for everything – that is, for the win,’ promised Sonik.
Kamil Wiśniewski is also in a fighting mood. ‘Last year, I couldn’t train on the desert. I already know that these training sessions will help me during the rally itself. I’m faster and more experienced with the dunes,’ he emphasized.
The younger rider will bear the number 114 during the Saturday’s prologue at Al Forsan International Sports Resort. Rafał Sonik’s number throughout the entire season will be 111. ‘This is no accident, of course. I decided to make a reference here to one of the greatest masters of Polish motorsports – Tadek Błażusiak, who ended his sports career in December. In this way, I want to show the respect for his hard work and for his achievements. This is also a commitment and an incentive to become better and better,’ he explained.