The story of another Lithuanian crew in the Arctic snow
The Arctic Lapland rally has been on the crew’s plans for some time. Many steps were planned and put together. But those plans changed when the crew learned that the chief mechanic D. Biesevičius would go to Dakar in Saudi. It became clear that after the end of Dakar, it would not be realistic to be able to send a car together with the chief mechanic before the start of the rally. The trip to the polar wheel was postponed to next year. But again – the plans remain plans, and the huge desire for a rally, the very distant start of the Lithuanian Rally Championship in terms of time, and the message from M.Samsonas turn everything upside down again. So as soon as the new year 2021 dawned, one of the first decisions was to take the opportunity to rent a Subaru Impreza car in Finland and thus become a participant in the rally.
Adventures in the Arctic
Lithuanian rally legend E.Tumalevičius has said, if you want to see a 3D image of road, and drive not in two, but in all three dimensions – you have to go to Finland. A.Eidžiūnas and G.Saudargas went to Finland and saw it. Even more.
The Arctic Lapland Rally is like Dakar of the North. Extreme temperature conditions, marathon long special stages, long liaisons, early twilight. At the time of the reece, the temperature was -30 degrees. It later warmed to -15 and on Saturday to tropical -9. 1200 kilometers of road travel and that is not enough compared to the amount that can be covered by reece in the special stages of the Arctic Rally. It takes more time to do reece here, but the crew found themselves in Finland only on Tuesday afternoon, so they were short on time.
Expectations before the rally were low. The most important thing is to be in Finland, get the equipment and finish. With expectations as with plans, not everything worked out.
The Subaru Impreza prepared by Prodrive is different from the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX used before by Lithuanians. The main difference – Impreza likes to lose her rear end in corners. And when you add a new environment and temperature to a car that behaves differently, it has an inexorable effect on driving.
The first special stage was 23 kilometers long. Neither short nor long. In Lithuania, such a long stage could be found one or two in the whole season, and in the Lapland Rally, it is one of the shortest. After passing the shakedown in the evening, the crew already had basic feelings. Once you start as 87th car you can immediately see the complexity of this rally. From the first kilometers, you could saw a lot of stopped, broke, or stuck cars on the side of the road. And that really doesn’t give confidence. After driving about 10 kilometers, Lithuanians got used to the conditions and fallen rivals, but in the eighteenth kilometer, they were caught by the twists of this rally and a new car. A long turn down the hill that tightens. Everything is concrete and clear in the pacenotes, but the end of the Subaru escaped the track, there was already a snowbank waiting for it, which, among other things, also took the front of the car. A complete classic. And at this point, the Covid factor was very strongly affected. Normally, a crew stuck in a snowbank with the help of professional spectators would get out in about half a minute. The problem is that there were no spectators because of the pandemic restrictions. So instead of a quick Finnish escort on the road, Aurimas and Gediminas had to work with shovels at -18 degrees Celsius. The disproportionate size of the shovels and snowbank resulted in an hour and a half of work that was eventually completed with the Finnish helpers who finally appeared. The stewards did not pat the crew for such a delay and the rally had to be extended only on Saturday, according to the Super Rally rule. The next day was a little better, but this time the red light on the finish was lit by a Subaru Impreza technical failure. At the 18th kilometer of the last stage, the car began to emit metal sounds that promised nothing but bad news. The crew stopped with a gearbox failure. Only rear-wheel drive was left and it was possible to continue, but the oil leak posed a further threat to the gearbox.
The Finnish winter special stages are very difficult. Extremely narrow, and snowbanks sometimes rise above the car’s roof. Let’s add extreme temperature to that. Compared to Lithuanian ones, there are very long, marathon special stages. In the baltic country, 20+ kilometer stages are extremely rare, and here, 30-40-kilometer challenges are quite common. No special stages were driven twice, which resulted in long liaisons and an extraordinary number of kilometers in reece. The configuration of the road section itself likes to change there. Extremely fast sections in the same stage are replaced by slow, twisted, second gear sections. Jumps – some sharp and throwing car in the air, some with extremely slow turns through them. Long climbs and descents from the mountains. Also, the length of one turn can be up to a kilometer. So when writing the stage, such turns need to come up with a variety of additional attributes in the pacenotes to understand what awaits you. The grip also varies greatly, and there are ruts in some places. So to sum up all the nuances, you are exposed to a huge amount of information when driving on such roads. It’s quite a challenge to make good pacenotes here. I don’t know whether during the briefing the organizers is still telling you from which part to start burning the car if it stopped and there is a threat to freeze, but a shovel, a first aid kit, and a separate set of warm clothes are a must for every crew. A rally worth seeing with your own eyes. Aurimas and Gediminas were very happy to have gone there and if there will be another opportunity – they will go to Lapland again.
For A. Eidžiūnas and G. Saudargas, this is the second rally in the period of global constraint. The first was at the Lausitz Rally in mid-November in Germany. Everything is strict – tests, bracelets, limited movement, and communication. A kind of rally bubble. But that doesn’t eliminate the general atmosphere of the rally where someone is still moving, shrugging, bustling, smiling, or worrying about something. Absolutely great organization manifests itself in the fact that during the whole rally there was no desire or need to ask anything. Everything is very clearly and simply written in official documents, so there is not even a question of who, where, how, and why. Huge service area tents that can hold dozens of cars underneath. They are also equipped with a supply of warm air to the staff working there.
130 cars – an impressive event in terms of size, considering that everything took place in Covid conditions. Viewers were warned that this event would take place without them. And the Finns behaved in an orderly manner, so it was only possible to meet the media and only a few outcasts in the stages. People probably understand that it is possible to run competitions, train, and improve for athletes in the current conditions, but only within certain limits, which, if violated, could turn on the red light for such competitions as well.
Season plans – updated car. The car will soon appear in all its beauty, in a newer look, and will be adorned with the logos of the same partners. The crew is getting ready to go where they can. More precisely – the Lithuanian championship, maybe another winter event in Estonia, or the European championship event in Liepaja. And for the finish of the season – the Lausitz rally will be visited. Some partners are from Germany, so it will be a tribute to them.
Thoughts – Aurimas Eidžiūnas ir Gediminas Saudargas
Words by – Vilius Šaltenis
Photo – Fotodarius.lt ir Jouni Laakso
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