Beautiful terrain but you need to respect it says Pole as lone Russian lady rider takes on men
Abu Dhabi, UAE, 28 March, 2015: Poland’s Rafael Sonik, the reigning FIM world quads champion, is in raptures when he talks about the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge POWERED BY NISSAN, but he was quick to add a word of caution before the event got under way today.
Sonik, who is bidding to become the first quads rider to successfully defend his Desert Challenge quads title, can’t wait for the rally to break out into the stunning Western Region of Al Garbia tomorrow (Sunday morning).
“It is the most beautiful place I could ever think of driving,” said Sonik before the Saturday afternoon super spectator special stage at Yas Marina Circuit officially launched the event’s 25th anniversary.
“For me to be here and rallying is fulfilling the dream of any rally driver or any person who is passionate about driving. It is like going to heaven when you are here. You cannot imagine a more spectacular or more beautiful terrain to race on, but you have to respect it.
“I crashed here in the desert many years ago and I broke my wrist and learnt a big lesson. It is beautiful terrain, but you need to respect it and be cautious. I train in Dubai in the winter time for Dakar and then after that for the Desert Challenge and the World Cup.
“You always have to remember it was created by nature and when man chooses to use it, you have to be absolutely sure that you are responsible and take care at all times. We cannot expect nature to look after us and this is exactly what I will be telling our Polish team riders tomorrow before we start.
Taking place under the patronage of H.H.Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Ruler’s Representative in the Western region, the 25th Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge is the second round of this year’s FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies for cars and the opening round of the FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship for bikes.
Russia’s Anastasiya Nifontova is surprised to find herself as the only lady rider entering the battle of the bikes, but is not daunted by the challenge ahead in the company of six-times world champions Marc Coma and last year’s Desert Challenge winner Paulo Goncalves of Portugal.
“I thought there would be other girls in this event but it looks like I am the only one,” she said. “It will be new experience on the bike and competing with an all-male field, but it’s the second time riding in the Desert Challenge, so I know what to expect.
“I have been speaking to some of the local guys and they have said the sand is currently very soft because of the wind and the heat so let’s see what will happen this year.
“The first 10 to 15 guys are from factory teams and I can’t compete with them, but other guys are not familiar so I don’t know what to expect. I hope I will finish somewhere in the middle of the pack.
“Last time I used a rental bike and I had problems with it daily so I didn’t end up doing very well. I just managed to finish the race safely with lots of penalties. This time I have a new bike and team so I hope to do better.”
The Nissan Patrol, the “Hero of All terrain in Life”, is positioned for the 12th year as the official vehicle of the event. The line-up of strategic partners includes the Ruler’s Court in the Western Region, Western Region Municipality, Abu Dhabi Municipality, the UAE Army, Abu Dhabi Police, National Ambulance Service, Nissan, Yas Marina Circuit, ADNOC, Abu Dhabi Aviation, Al Ain Mineral Water, Abu Dhabi Waste Management, Rotana and Centro Hotels - Yas Island, Qasr Al Sarab Resort, Explorer and DP World.