After a seven-year pursuit, Rafal Sonik has claimed a championship in the Dakar Rally.
The Polish rider cruised into Buenos Aires on Sunday with an eighth-place finish in the 13th and final stage. And so, Sonik has reached the top in the quads category following five previous Top-5 finishes in the overall (third in 2009, fifth in 2010, fourth in 2012, third in 2013, and second in 2014).
“I’ve been waiting for this moment [for] seven years, and have been fighting every day…I have never lost the belief that sooner or later, this moment would come,” Sonik said humbly.
“…I dedicate this victory to those that have dreamed and [still] dream about Dakar, and to those who could not fulfill these dreams or have suffered a lot trying to fulfill this dream. I fulfilled this dream, but I dedicate [the win] to those who can’t.”
In 2014, Sonik was runner-up to Chilean rider Ignacio Casale, and the 2015 running was shaping up to be a duel to the finish between these two men.
But a pair of disasters would strike down the hopes of both Casale and another pursuer of Sonik’s, Uruguay’s Sergio Lafuente, in Stage 10. A broken chain on Casale’s quad and a crash for Lafuente saw them both out of the Dakar.
What had been a four-minute overall lead for Sonik dramatically grew to almost three hours as a result of Casale and Lafuente’s withdrawals.
And all that was left for Sonik to do was bring his vehicle home in one piece to his team, which he hailed on Sunday.
“I’m very proud, and I’m very proud for my team,” Sonik said. “Because there is a wonderful group of people around me that also never stopped dreaming and never stopped believing that sooner or later, we would get this victory.
“I think they deserve it the most. My belief turned into their belief, and I respect the people around me the most.”
19-year-old Argentinian Jeremias Gonzalez (second) and Bolivia’s Walter Nosiglia (third) complete the overall podium in the category. Sunday’s stage win went to South Africa’s Willem Saaijman, who denied Christophe Declerck’s bid for a Dakar-closing hat trick by just six seconds.