As planned, Rafał Sonik did not push too hard during the prologue to his eight Dakar Rally. Tiny technical problems and a joke from the fans made him lose… 23 seconds to the leader. This difference will have no bearing on the final result, but the first day already gave the Orlen Team champion a lot to think about.
After many years, the organizers decided to organize a prologue stage again. On the scale of the Dakar Rally, you can’t even call it a warm-up – it’s main role is to determine the starting order for the first stage. Rafał Sonik, superstitious as always, went calm with no pushing, but he kept close to the leaders. He lost only 23 seconds to the winner – Ignacio Casale (Chile).
At the beginning the Orlen Team champion had tiny technical problems with one of the navigation devices, and as he exited a deep river, he lost a few seconds because the fans sent him off in the wrong direction.
However, these adventures were not the things that convinced Rafał Sonik to rethink the situation at the start of the contest, it was the analysis of the starting lists for individual classes and the changes introduced by the organizers. ‘As Marco Coma promised, our roadbooks contains less information about the route. The long description of the specifics and terrain on each kilometre was replaced by three general sentences. The entire right column has also disappeared, which used to provide information about specific points. This was all to increase the difficulty,’ explained Rafał Sonik.
This new solution might soon turn out to be of key significance for the competition, in particular in the quads class. Why? ‘The leading bike riders and drivers mostly come from outside South America, while in the quad class, there are very few ‘outsiders’. Local competitors know the area very well, because this is where they train on the day-to-day basis and they know what to expect on a given day. We, the Europeans, without the additional information in the roadbook, are driving blind. The game has changed.
It might seem mundane, but having an idea about the type and shape of the terrain allows us to plan the strategy for the given special stage and how to adjust the speed. My plan will be different if I know that I have 40 km of sand ahead of me, and then the same length of hard surface, where I can rest. And as such, this year’s Dakar Rally will be, for me and for other competitors from outside the continent, a much bigger challenge than until now,’ added Sonik.
On Saturday, the first serious test awaits the participants – they first have to cover an access section that is over 300 km long, and then the special stage – 227 km.
PKN ORLEN supports Rafał Sonik’s participation in the rally.
Results of the prologue
1. Ignacio Casale (CHL) 7.14
2. Marcos Patronelli (ARG) + 0.05
3. Pablo Copetti (ARG) + 0.07
14. Rafał Sonik (POL) + 0.23