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QUADS: EASTERLY WINDS
· The South American domination in the quad category could be called into question by Poland’s Rafal Sonik, Josef Machacek from the Czech Republic or Russia’s Sergey Karyakin.
· 2014 Winner, Ignacio Casale from Chile will be the leader of the riders from the continent, which can also count on Nelson Sanabria from Paraguay and Bolivia’s Walter Nosiglia.
At the start in the capital city of Paraguay, Asunción, 37 quads will line-up with 22 ridden by South American riders, which have dominated the sharp end of the order since the arrival of the Dakar on the continent in 2009. But Rafal Sonik, Josef Machacek on his return, and Sergey Karyakin, could very well bring back the category win to Eastern Europe...
The balance of power is constantly evolving on the Dakar between constructors or nationalities following transfers, revelations or even trends. In the context of the 2017 edition, several scenarios could play out in the quad category. The three riders on the podium last January have decided not to defend their positions. When analysing the list of entries there is an easterly wind that could blow with mighty force over the rally. Perhaps to the benefit of 2015 winner, Rafal Sonik who will be out for revenge after digesting one of his rare withdrawals last year. At 50 years of age and as passionate as ever when it comes to quads, the Pole put his race science to use on the Abu Dhabi and Atacama rallies... victories that allowed him to win the discipline’s World Championship.
Things could also change with the return to the category of the one that specialists nicknamed the “Tsar” at the height of his domination. After establishing the record of five victories (2000-01-03-07-09), Josef Machacek took a break that was ultimately unsuccessful (2 withdrawals in the car category in 2014 and 2016), but this year he is back on his machine of predilection. The 60-year old Czech dominated the competition on the Touareg Rally as well as the Bajas in Italy and Hungary. It remains to be seen whether his wisdom will contain the appetite of Russian Sergey Karyakin. The 25-year old finished just off the overall podium in 2016 (4th). Another contender, Frenchman Sébastien Souday doesn’t have the same experience on the Dakar, but on the other hand he beat Rafal Sonik and all the other top riders on the two races he ran this year in Sardinia and Morocco!
It will however take a real storm to destabilize the clan of the Latinos. Among the three former winners awaited at the start, 29-year old Igancio Casale is by far the youngest among them and he will assume the status as the leader of the South Americans. The Chilean has withdrawn on the last two Dakars, which is very unrepresentative of his race craft. To add a second triumph to his total, he will have to leave behind the Europeans, but also fend off neighbouring South American riders who are particularly ambitious. Like the winner of the 2014 edition that finished at Valparaiso, two contenders will have a chance to shine on a rally route that will run through their home territories. In Paraguay, Nelson Sanabria will try to draw on his energy to go the distance and go for the win, after having finished fourth in the general classification (2015). Very quickly, the terrain will be to the advantage of Bolivian Walter Nosiglia, who finished third overall on the 2015 Dakar.
And the quad category will also feature a female confrontation. With the experience accumulated during seven consecutive Dakar finishes, Camélia Liparoti is the overwhelming pre-rally favourite. But 25-year old Bolivian Suany Martinez will benefit from her father’s advice, Leonardo, who finished 12th last year... just behind Camélia!