The third World Cup in a row and the fourth one in his career – this is how Rafał Sonik ended this fantastic season. Since the very first rally of this season, it was clear that it won’t be easy to get another trophy. The Polish participant fought a fierce fight with Mohamed Abu-Issa, and the tables turned to his favour as late as in Chile, after winning the Rally de Sardegna.
The first win of the season went to the young Qatar representative, who bravely rode through the route of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. In the meantime, Sonik had to face many failures, which made the fight very uneven. Despite that, he managed to take the second place among the sand storm, as a result of which the last stage of the challenge was cancelled.
The time for revenge came in Qatar. The “revenge” was sweet, because Rafał Sonik won with Mohamed Abu-Issa on his turf, where Rafał’s rival feels best. Once again perfect navigation, experience and persistence was the key to success.
The situation was chopping and changing. In the Pharaoh’s Rally, Mohamed Abu-Issa won again, as he did better in Sahara and regained the leading position. Once gain the fate of both rivals was decided on Sardegna. The Italian island is one of the favourite places to ride for Rafał Sonik and he proved it by winning there for the third time in a row, and again leading to a draw at the top of the general classification.
The break in the fight between them took place in August, when, for unknown reasons, Mohamed Abu-Issa did not participate in the Atacama Rally. “SuperSonik” came up second, giving way only to Ignacio Casale, and thus securing his fourth World Cup. Winning the Morocco Rally was the cherry on the cake of the entire season and the perfect form of the Poland National Team Captain since the beginning of the year and since winning the Dakar Rally.
In 2015, Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge opened the FIM World Cup rally season, as usual. In the preceding year Rafał Sonik won the challenge, but before the beginning of another round, he knew that it will be difficult to repeat this success.
And in fact luck did not want to have anything to do with Rafał Sonik since the first stages of the rally. During the opening stage he had serious problems with the fuel pump, then with the drive. Despite that, he only lost 10 minutes to the leader and kept his spirits up: ‘Rallies are stressful, and today the drive belt stressed out – and broke, and I barely finished this stage.
The next day was no better. During the group start, Rafał Sonik started in the second round, leading the weaker bikers and quad riders behind him. He was the one to set the speed, while Mohamed Abu-Issa charged behind the best participants on bikes. The situation was made worse as a result of Sonik’s quad getting buried at the top of a dune – resulting in the third place.
However, a true master fights until the very end. The third stage went to “SuperSonik”, who finally experienced no technical problems and made up for some of the earlier losses. On the second to last day, he regained the second place, even though he was once again plagued by equipment failures. ‘I don’t remember any other rally where I would have so much troubles,’ said Sonik at the finish line.
The last stage was cancelled due to a huge sandstorm. The participants arrived at the finish line long the access road, and here once again fate smiled to Sonik. Several dozen kilometres in, the engine refused to work and he arrived in Abu Zabi towed by Kamil Wiśniewski, a débutante in the World Cup series, who ended the rally on a great fourth position.
He started the season with a second place, which – considering all the technical problems – was a fantastic result.
Rafał Sonik was in a difficult position before the Sealine Cross-Country Rally. Mohamed Abu-Issa (Qatar) was a leader after the first rally, and in the second round he was on his home turf – and hence declared a favourite. It did not discourage him – Rafał likes the hardest of challenges.
This time Honda worked like a charm and the defender of the World Cup title only lost 59 seconds to his rival. It meant that he was set for attack on the following day. “SuperSonik” wasted no opportunity and became the leader after the second stage, only to increase it after the third one. It clearly made Mohamed Abu-Issa nervous, and he rushed forward to make up for the losses. And his bravery was his doom. He damaged his axle shaft, he broke the wheel, and he reached the finish line on a tow, losing any chances of catching up with Sonik.
Mohamed Abu-Issa was the fastest rider of the last special stage, but the win was a consolation prize. Rafał Sonik won the rally and there was a draw in points in the general classification of the World Cup.
Rafał Sonik had also one more reason to celebrate. Kamil Wiśniewski took the third place in the rally. Kamil did well earlier in the Baja World Cup, but now he started to take advantage of his perseverance and skills in the long-distance rallies.
On the first day of the Pharaoh’s Rally, Rafał Sonik fought with failing electric systems, but he kept his spirits up and laughed that Egypt had treated him lightly. The failure turned out to be easy to repair and while he lost several minutes to Mohamed Abu-Issa, but his rival got a penalty for speeding and for the next two days “SuperSonik” was in the lead.
The Poland National Team Captain kept his first place even after a dangerous situation that happened during the third special stage. ‘The road must’ve turned at a sharp angle, because when I left the dust cloud, I only saw a heap of stone that was 2.5 m high. I managed to brake, release, and then I saw the sky. Luckily, the rear wheels went up, too, so quad turned and went down on its nose. Luckily, there was some sand there and a mild slope, so I managed to land. How did I manage not to roll over the steering wheel? ‘I have no idea! I was so sure I was a goner.’
Everything changed on the fourth day, unfortunately. His side shock damper failed as a consequence of the accident, where Rafał and his quad rolled down the dune. Putting the quad the right side up and driving with a faulty quad cost Sonik seven minutes, which allowed Mohamed Abu-Issa to take over the lead.
Mohamed Abu-Issa did not give the second place away, but Rafał Sonik, reaching the finish line on the second place, could also feel happy with the success of his younger colleague. Jakub Piątek won the bikers’ world cup rally. He was the first Pole to do so in the history of the series and became the vice-leader of the general classification.
Rafał Sonik won Rally di Sardegna for the third time in a row, but as usual, the island bared its teeth. Since the very first kilometres it was not easy, and the defender of the World Cup title had to fight failures and adventures, to get stand on the top of the podium at the finish line. More importantly, Kamil Wiśniewski completed the rally only one position lower.
During the first special stage Sonik had problems with distance meters, which made it very difficult to navigate. One day later he turned into a dead end, and he found himself in a deep ravine. Kamil Wiśniewski and Stephane Marthoud helped him, were it not for them, he would not be able to make up for his losses.
On the third day, the organizers planned a marathon stage. It turned out that it was the tipping point, as the Polish participant took over the lead and held it until the very end. Kamil Wiśniewski tried to keep up with Rafał Sonik and regularly arrived at the finish line just behind Rafał – and later they stood proud together on the podium.
The “Old man”, as other participants call Sonik, including Mohamed Abu-Issa, once again showed that despite his age, his experience, routine, intelligence and tactical driving he is able to win with the fastest riders in the world.
For the first time Atacama Rally was a part of the FIM World Cup round, and despite certain shortcomings, it was a success. Racing along the driest and one of the least human-friendly deserts in the world was pretty dramatic. In particular in the quads category, where two eternal rivals faced each other: Rafał Sonik and Ignacio Casale.
Before the start, the winner of Dakar emphasized that he will not fight to win in Chile at all costs, because that was not his priority. Rafał knew very well that Ignacio Casale will try to show his best side on his home turf and in front of his own fans. He also knew that the second place will be enough to secure the fourth World Cup title in his career. This is why Rafał did not intend to fight for every second. He wanted to follow his strong, standard speed.
Despite the safety margin, he won the prologue and two stages, which gave him a large advantage over the rivals, giving him a strong second place. Just behind Casale, who was drunk with joy because of the win. This is why “SuperSonik” proudly raised four fingers up into the air, symbolising four trophies.
It is also important to mention that the rally in Chile was held in pretty unusual circumstances, because the driest desert in the world… bloomed. At this time of the year, the desert is covered by a colourful carpet of flowers, which completely changes the image of this dry and harsh piece of land.
QiLibya Rally in Morocco, like a year and two years before, was only to be the icing on the cake. Rafał Sonik arrived at the former routes of the Dakar Rally for the third time and he was in a very comfortable position. He had the World Cup title secured, but this did not mean that he would ease off or drive more slowly. “SuperSonik” dominated the rally, winning four out of five stages.
Traditionally, Morocco served as a testing ground for new solutions for the quad, like the configuration of the suspension. However, it did not prevent Sonik from leaving his rivals far behind him and from winning special stages. Only once another quad rider was faster – Sebastian Souday, who did not complete two previous stages and started the stage several dozen minutes behind the leader, so he was not able to catch up, but his time was better.
Despite this minor “drawback”, the statistics of the winner of the World Cup in Morocco inspires awe. Rafał Sonik won all three editions that he participated in. What is more, he won all special stages but two!
This result is truly incredible, if you consider all the adventures he had this year.
One day my team accidentally forgot to pack the second part of the roadbook for me, and after the fuel stop, I had to navigate like a true scout. I followed the traces and the dust of my rivals. On the next day, the fuel we got must have been mixed with water. The quad did not want to go, the engine died, did not want to start back again. It’s a wonder that I completed that stage, and it’s even more incredible that nobody caught up with me,