The tension before the beginning of the 38th edition of the Dakar Rally reached its height. ‘The peak will surely come when we arrive at the Ferme park to take our quads for the start, but we are already very excited,’ says Rafał Sonik, who, as the winner of last year’s edition, will be the last one to go on the route of the prologue.
On this late Saturday morning, Buenos Aires will again be filled with hundreds of thousands of cheering fans, and several hundred vehicles will drive through the gate on their way to the start line of the first special stage. The prologue will only have 11 kilometres and is intended to set the order for the start of the first stage of the contest. Rafał Sonik does not have any tactical plan for this part of the rally.
‘First of all, the weather conditions are totally unpredictable. They say two days ago it was raining in this area, but the water should have dried till now. Secondly, we are lined up in the reverse, and we start every half a minute. For such a short stage, it’s too little. I will have all those four-by-four quads in front of me, and I will probably catch up with a lot of them… but I believe that Marc Coma, who is responsible for the route, knows what he’s doing,’ commented Rafał Sonik.
Last year’s winner once again mentioned his superstitious nature. In 2011, on 2 January, he dropped out of the Dakar Rally because of an accident. ‘I will have the double amount of bad luck to overcome, because not only it is the first day of the contest, but the date is also unlucky. This is why my motto for the first day will be: “tranquillo” (Spanish for: calmly),’ he promises.
Even though Rafał Sonik arrived at the administrative check-ups at the end, he still had the opportunity to meet some of his rivals. For example, he had a long conversation with the Patronelli brothers, who tried to convince him… to drive with them against the Chileans and other nations. ‘Petronellis were always very good to me. They even told me that they were awestruck when I won the Dakar Rally last year. Of course, what they meant is that the Chileans lost, animosities between those nations are quite significant,’ explained Sonik and smiled.
Interestingly, the Argentinian duo, holding four wins in the Dakar Rally together, will start the contest with much better hardware, at least in theory. Both Marcos and Alejandro fitted their Yamahas Raptor with engines built in 2015, which are to have 10 % more power than their predecessors, according to the manufacturer.
‘Petronelli brothers say that they drove 2000 km in high speed on them, but we will see how they will behave on the route,’ said Sonik calmly.