After one day off, the participants returned to the starting line of the next stage of the rally. This time they were welcomed by the sands of the Gobi Desert. Rafał Sonik finished this most difficult stage so far with the second time. Thanks to his strong leading position in the general classification of the rally, the Polish champion was able to focus on technical driving without forcing the tempo. This was even more important since he had been suffering from food poisoning since Saturday.
Even without the element of sports rivalry, travelling from Dalanzadgad in Mongolia to Bayinbaolige in China did not allow the participants to rest and rejuvenate. Most of the 500km-long transfer road was covered with hard sand rather than concrete, which made the convoy creep along slowly. The border formalities for every team took some time as well, so in the end, the racers spent all day on the road.
Hardly rested, the drivers had to face the longest stage of the rally on increasingly hot Sunday. They blazed through 785km, 327 of which was a special stage. The competition carried them across dunes, steppes, canyons, and dry riverbeds. The route was diverse and navigation demanding. Even the most experienced cross-country drivers asserted it was one of the hardest special stages in their career. “I haven’t encountered such a difficult stage for about six years. I like driving in a desert, but the one we raced in today was extremely exhausting,” admitted the leader of the car category, Nasser Al-Attiyah.
Our quad driver had similar observations. “I like long and difficult stages but this one was nasty,” reported Rafał Sonik, “We race across various deserts. Some are beautiful, some are mediocre, and some are awful. Today, we drove on gorgeous sandy dunes for ten, maybe twenty percent of the stage. The rest was covered with camel grass which required a lot of crisscrossing and so it was impossible to keep a fast pace. All in all, I am very content that I was able to tackle this stage without much difficulty, despite my stomach issues.”
The leader of the Silk Way Rally suffered from typical issues caused by changes in the microbiome. “My stomach was cramping throughout the whole stage. Man, did it hurt! I had to put more effort to finish, but I did it for the results rather than for pleasure,” added „SuperSonik”.
On Monday, the caravan leaves Alashan and moves towards Jiayuguan. 255 km of a special stage will probably be as challenging as today. “I’ve heard that we are looking at a very similar stage tomorrow. I will try to enjoy sandy stretches, keeping in mind that the main goal is to reach Dunhuang,” concluded Rafał Sonik.
Stage VIII results:
1. Aleksander Maksimow (RUS) 5:41.59
2. Rafał Sonik (POL) +7.06
3.Arkadiusz Lindner (POL) +1:05.20
1. Rafał Sonik (POL) 25:35.50
2. Aleksander Maksimow (RUS) +1:52.15
3. Arkadiusz Lindner (POL) +67:10.00