Things in the first 2020 months in Lithuania were not at the best. After Dakar, only one positive thing was to watch on WRC+, as Deividas Jociuscius was reaching his dreams to start in WRC Monte Carlo with the latest spec WRC car. And he proudly made it. But after that, since winter took a vacation, the only news you were about to hear – another canceled event due to warm weather. And then later mister quarantine knocked on the door saying – no more rallying for You.
But let’s get back to this day, realizing that in less than four months, the Lithuanian rally community managed to get through four remaining rounds of the season. And those rounds were with a record number of participants and with a huge amount of spectators within special stages. Also, rally media-level reached its highest points in history capturing battles who lasted until the last corners of the rally. So I believe the Lithuanian rally bounced back in the very best way after quarantine. And we have to thank all participants, organizers, media, fans, and everybody who involved in this.
And now about the very finish of the season. It is really strange to wander around North-east meadows, not South sand dunes of country, in late autumn. Rally finish in the south, Druskininkai, was a real tradition. But as this rally was canceled, Zarasai town had an opportunity to come back to the highest level of Rallying in Lithuania. The thing is, they needed to organize a rally in a month’s time. But they made it perfectly. Also, Druskininkai had an epic night stage for the season finish. It was very sandy, very narrow among the pines, and very long. And I thought, that there could not be a better way to finish the season. Until now. There is a road on a Lithuania / Latvia border called Stelmužė, for a nearby standing 1500 years old oak tree. Fast tarmac section with gravel covered turns, amazing jumps, and full gravel narrow, but very fast, demanding section in the woods. At night with raining pouring down. It was epic as it was in Druskininkai.
13 stages, long and short, fast (average 115 km / h), and even faster (average 131 km / h), from early morning to night. And countless wonderful things happened in them. Fortune played the opposite of the usual cards for many this time around, and that was very strongly reflected in both the leaderboards and the moods by special stages. From the very beginning, everything seemed quite normal, only the speed of Vladas Jurkevicius / Aisvydas Paliukėnas raised the eyebrows of those standing near stages. But little by little, the rampart turned up, which ended only after crossing Stelmužė’s finish at night. First, as the autumn leaves began to fall the fastest driven BMWs. One after another, G.Firantas, K.Raišys, R.Steponavičius, K.Bubik stopped due to technical failures, and J.Tamašauskas, who was affected by the technical problems, hit his nose heavily into the trees. But despite such huge losses, the abundance of BMW cars and fast drivers in them guaranteed a great fight. M.Jurgaitis, Kajus Samsonas, and A.Buteikis never had time to breathe and went all the way to the finish flat out. Before the night, M. Jurgaitis managed to gain an advantage of almost 15 seconds against K.Samsonas, but the finish clocks of the last special stage showed + 23.30s to the detriment of Mantas. So Kajus Samsonas, son of legendary Martynas Samsonas, gearboxes and dampers’ creator, won the 2WD class in his first showing to top-level on Lithuania Rally.
The questions of the absolute rally winner before the rally did not arise, but… All season Vaidotas Žala – Agrorodeo Racing was driving like a swiss watch and was far ahead by his speed. But in Zarasai, as the Vaidotas often says, he had a “bunch of things”. Not in a good way. The 7th stage was crucial, as Vaidotas took one jump not in a very good manner, resulting in turbo hose failure. That cost him over a minute loss in a stage and drop down to 5th place. Normally, Vaidas might not have fallen so far and dramatically, but Martynas Samsonas‘ / Ervinas Snitkas’ Fiesta N5 ran fine and without tech. failures, Dominykas Butvilas / Renatas Vaitkevičius continued to dive very precisely on Zarasai roads, a white Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX driven by the legendary Janis Vorobjovs / Ivo Pūķis J.Vorobjovs flew to the best of his ability and in the first outing with Fabia R5 V. Jurkevičius / A.Paliukėnas was showing the pace and stability worthy of the first places. So the remaining 5 day and one-night special stages had to decide which one will take a Zarasai trophy home. And I don’t really remember when last time we had a 5-way fight for a rally win. And in the end, it all ended so that Vytautas Samsonas, who left this world this summer, can be proud of his son and grandson. Both climbed the highest – closest to the sky. For Kajus Samsonas this is the first full event of the Lithuania Rally Championship and the first victory in LARČ5 and 2WD classification, and for Martynas Samsonas it is a triumph after a four-year break. Vaidotas Žala climbed over D.Butvilas and V.Jurkevičius in the last special stage, flying absurdly quickly during the night, thus rising to the second place. The dispute over the last place on the podium between Dominykas Butvilas and Vladas Jurkevičius was resolved by the latter’s mistake at the intersection, which cost 11 seconds, although after the first two splits Vladas was faster. J. Vorobjovs was left in the fifth – the second-time run rutted roads for his Mitsubishi are a much bigger obstacle than for the N5 and R5 cars, so it affects speed greatly. The duel between Ramūnas Čapkauskas / Titas Čapkauskas and the guests from Poland R.Kocik / S.Wach Eurotter Rally Team that started in Rally Elektrėnai continued in Zarasai region – in the first half the Poles showed a faster pace, in the middle of the rally both leveled off and in the evening the father/son Čapkauskas crew flew faster towards the finish.
And it’s absolutely necessary to mention LARČ7 / BMW Cup class fights. Almost unbeatable there is Tadas Pupeikis, who has been leading most of the time, but due to tech. failures fell to fourth place in the class. But not for long, as overcoming the night stage absolutely ninth (!!!) he returned to first place again in his class. The biggest competitor Marius Vėgėlė might not have allowed it to do that, but after a mistake, the failed cooling system, unfortunately, left Marius on the DNF lists. And where the misfortune of one is the happiness of another. On the eve of the rally celebrating his 19th birthday, the third rally in his life for Gracjan Predko almost ended in a class victory. But the guests from Poland had to acknowledge T.Pupeikis’ abilities at night and left in second place. Third in BMW Cup class were family crew A.Kalėda / A.Kalėda Kaleda Racing, for whom clutch problems ruined a second to the second fight with G.Predko.
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Photo – Vilius Šaltenis