Sonik reached the finish line 7th and takes the 7th position in the general rankings after the first two stages of the 2018 Dakar Rally. While the Polish quad rider didn’t make any mistakes, his machine seemed to be… short of power. “We haven’t modified the engine for years which makes it both more reliable and endurable. Kariakin, Casale, and Koolen have been upgrading their vehicles regularly. During the race, it allowed them to get ahead on flat stretches, ” explained the Polish champion.
The second stage was designed to be difficult with many navigational traps. The racers had to find 60 waypoints; missing any of them meant a 20-minutes penalty, which in some cases added up to 5 hours. However, this stage it was especially challenging for the frontline of cars, which unlike before, were the first to go. Motorbikes and quads started later which enabled the riders to follow the tracks left behind other vehicles. It didn’t mean their job was easier though.
The route turned into sand dunes almost right at the beginning and the cars had left very soft, powdery sand behind. Narrow passes between hills were turning into quicksands. “My wheels kept slipping because of the mousse inside, so without sufficient power, I had to get my quad going real fast not to lose the traction on the uphill parts,” explained the Cracovian racer.
The Polish racer run into troubles when one of the passes got blocked by cars. “I was forced to turn my quad around, push it out of there, and regain enough speed to go around that spot and climb quite a high sand dune. I’m pretty sure I lost 10 minutes there but I can’t complain. My ride was smooth and free of any serious mistakes. The lack of enough power was the only real problem there,” admitted Sonik.
Kamil Wisniewski was satisfied to finish with the 17th time. “My yesterday’s mistake, including missing the waypoint, cost me two hours of penalty. 15 other quad riders got punished as well, including Josef Machacek, who won five out of nine competitions in his career. If such excellent racers make the same mistakes, I don’t have a reason to be upset,” asserted Wiśniewski with a smile.
Today, the Polish quad racer, riding in the four-wheel-drive class, succeeded in catching all the waypoints and moving up to the 30th position. “I noticed many bikers and quad riders stuck along the way which clearly proves that the 40th edition of the Dakar Rally has been really difficult right from the get-go. So I’m even more happy about my results today,” he added.
Unfortunately, the engine break-down meant the end of racing for a motorcyclist, Jakub Piatek. The car drivers ran into troubles as well. “I reckon that as many as 20 cars might have dropped from the rally today. Some rolled over, some got buried in the sand, and some crashed into one another. My collision warning system kept beeping, indicating there were immobile vehicles ahead,” said Sonik.
The situation may repeat itself on Monday, since the competition also takes place on sand dunes. The Dakar cavalcade will move on from Pisco to the town of San Juan de Marcona. The racers will compete on an 180-mile special stretch, out of the total of 300 miles of the endurance raid planned for this stage.
Stage II results
1. Ignacio Casale (CHL) 3:37.45
2. Siergiej Karjakin (RUS) +0.43
3. Gaston Gonzalez (ARG) +3.54
7. Rafał Sonik (POL) +13.49
17. Kamil Wiśniewski (POL) +34.30
1. Ignacio Casale (CHL) 4:05.17
2. Siergiej Karjakin (RUS) +1.43
3. Pablo Copetti (ARG) +11.51
7. Rafał Sonik (POL) +17.50
30. Kamil Wiśniewski (POL) +2:37.08