“Your heart is pounding, and you can feel the adrenaline rush. It feels like you are doing the best thing in the whole world and you don’t want it to end. You are not going to stop. The engine is roaring, starting to accelerate, the suspension is going up with the tires hitting first undulations. That’s total happiness! Half a year ago it seemed like an unattainable thing,” Rafał Sonik smiled widely after finishing the prologue of the Atacama Rally.
On Monday evening, for the first time in seven months, the six-time winner of the FIM World Cup stood at the starting line. The prologue of the rally was only 2 km long, but it was a fully enjoyable stretch for Rafał Sonik; it was a prize for the six months of a tedious rehabilitation training after his complicated injury.
„After the surgery in January, I could barely move. I wasn’t even able to sit up by myself. Few believed I would come back to professional racing after such a severe fracture. I actually wasn’t sure about it myself, so taking part in today’s start meant achieving something close to impossible. I was able to hit the gas, and stand up on the quad to cushion the impact,” reported the Pole with excitement.
The prologue to the Chilean rally turned out to be Sonik’s very successful first attempt to race again, as he finished in a tie with Aleksander Maksimow, the current leader of the FIM World Championships. „It was a difficult game since winning the chance to lead the Tuesday stage was a matter of seconds. It’s not nearly as hard as in Abu Zabi, but other participants will always catch up with the starting quad and gain an advantage over him in no time. I can’t predict what will happen tomorrow after 50 or 100 kilometers. Therefore, the strategy and the spirit of rivalry are less important to me at this time. I want to keep moving forward and make it to the finish line in 5 days’ time,” summarized Sonik.
During the press conference preceding the inauguration on Monday, the organizers asked the most acclaimed bikers to take part in the panel. They joined Rafał Sonik and his main, local rival, Ignacio Casale, who had traded his quad for a UTV. „There were five Dakar winners present: Sam Sunderland, Toby Price, Mathias Walkner, Ignacio, and I, as well as four others top racers. All of them had gone through serious fractures before. Nine athletes with a hundred past injuries and a few kilograms of metal inside their bodies,” added „SuperSonik” jokingly.
Tuesday marks the start of the real adventure in the Atacama Desert. The planned route will take the racers 266 km north of Copiapó.
1.Jeremias Gonzalez Ferioli (ARG) 1.44
2.Nicolas Cavigliasso (ARG) +0.01
3.Tomas Saldia (CHL) +0.05
4.Rafał Sonik (POL) +0.07
-.Aleksander Maksimow (RUS) +0.07