Dakar 2016

‘This year, from the hunter I became the hunted,’ said Rafał Sonik before the beginning of this year’s Dakar Rally. He knew that the “master’s it” principle will make all his rivals try and prove that they are better than the last year’s winner. This is why the Orlen Team Captain kept calm at the beginning of the rally, planning to attack better positions during the stages held in Bolivia. Unfortunately, equipment failures destroyed all the plans…

The beginning of the 38th Dakar Rally was quite unlucky. The El Nino weather phenomenon that affected the west coast of South America also had some impact on the eastern part of the continent. Heavy rains, rushing rivers, snow storms and hail – these were the reasons why the participants only completed about 80% of the planned route. Following a short prologue, the first stage was cancelled, and the true rivalry began only on Monday, 4 January.

Two days later the first marathon stage was to take place. Until then, Rafał Sonik rode calmly and cautiously, allowing his rivals to live it up. He arrived at the finish line among the top ten participants and kept quite close to the leader.

On the first day of the marathon stage, Sonik’s quad suffered a small leak under the gearbox top and oil started to leak out. Sonik consulted the mechanic and they believed that the Polish representative would reach the finish line, if he is careful. Unfortunately, this did not come to be. The engine used up all the oil during the fifth stage and simply exploded. One of the quad riders towed last year’s winner to San Vincente, and from there, on the back of a vehicle belonging to the local silver campaign, he reached the bivouac in Uyuni. And that was the end of the Dakar Rally for Rafał Sonik. At the time, he was the third quad rider and he was clearly moving up in the general classification.

On that day, the oldest rivals of Rafał Sonik also dropped out from the race: Mohammed Abu-Issa, Marcelo Medeiros, followed by Ignacio Casale a day later. This year, the finish line in Rosario was lucky for the returning Marcos and Alejandro Petronelli brothers, who missed a couple of races.

‘For the past four years I haven’t experienced any serious equipment failures that would eliminate me from a race. I won three World Cups, and I came up fourth, third, second, and first at the Dakar Rally. It seems that I just used up all my luck. I stayed on, I observed the rivals and the events on the route. Now I’m sure, more than before this edition of the rally began, that I will bring a Bedouin award to Poland once again in the future,’ concluded Sonik.