With 13 days and 8800 kilometres left behind them, the racers proudly stood on the Dakar Rally finish podium in Buenos Aires, after completing a very difficult competition this year. The Lithuanian CRAFT bearings team with Antanas Juknevičius and Darius Vaičiulis was among the 58 rally car crews that successfully made it to the finish. The Lithuanian team succeeded in taking 21st place, the highest recorded place ever among all racers from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Interestingly, the 10 hours and 11 min. that Juknevičius maintained behind the winner, Stephane Peterhansel, is also a record low difference for Baltic racers in the history of Dakar.

A total of 317 crews started the race, and according to the preliminary data, about one third of all these participants did not reach the finish. The extremely difficult Dakar stages in the first half of the race not only claimed one of the favourites, Nasser Al-Attiyah, and Carlos Sainz, but also two of our country’s crews. Antanas Juknevičius and Darius Vaičiulis remained the only hope of Lithuanians on the third day of the race. After the record finish of the Dakar, Antanas Juknevičius said: “We served as a great representation of Lithuania. Even without having an impressive budget, CRAFT bearings with its Overdrive Hilux car made in 2012 was one of the many teams driving new generation cars. All, without exception, of the drivers that finished earlier than A. Juknevičius, drove Toyota, MINI, Peugeot, Ford and HRX vehicles of last year’s generation.”

“In terms of the vehicle fleet and its renovation, this Dakar was extremely competitive. Both Peugeot and MINI, as well as Toyota, brought a new generation of cars and the old ones were sold or leased to other participants. Automatically, this made things twice as difficult, riding in the same car”, commented Antanas Juknevičius, a long standing participant of Dakar. “Nevertheless, our technical team prepared the car impeccably – we had a minimum amount of crashes and they were mostly not because of our own mistakes, so we were really fast. Darius also blended in with our team very well, and I feel strong and confident with him. I believe we were ready for the result we earned this year, and demonstrated it.”

“We achieved one of our goals. I have always said that it is important that the results constantly demonstrated by racers from the Baltic States should constantly move upwards. We are pleased that in such a serious Dakar, we were able to provide unforgettable emotions for Lithuanians and bring home a new record for our country”, said Antanas Juknevičius after crossing the finish line. “It goes without saying that you always want more – the top twenty was so close. However, if you look back at the vehicles and budgets of the competitors that were left behind us, I think we did a great job.”

“If the full team works well together, we can be among the top 15. To go further, it is important to be backed by the financial support of partners and practice in competitions all year round. The CRAFT bearings team must participate in the world championship, in order to remain ready and in good shape. Our goal is to move forward, jumping over the standard level that we have just raised. We also wish this for our Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian colleagues. It will be even more interesting if we all seek better results”, said the CRAFT bearings Dakar crew pilot, A. Juknevičius.

“We are very pleased with the high score of Antanas and Darius in the 2017 Dakar, and we are convinced that we share common values and goals, i.e. both the crew of Antanas and Darius, and the CRAFT bearings company are energetic and fast, and all those things are what we start with, which motivates us to climb up with confidence, in the name of our goals. Therefore, once again we emphasise how excited we are, and look forward to reaching new heights with this successful partnership of sports and business”, said Vygantas Rimgaila, Director of CRAFT bearings.

Also CRAFT bearings company’s distributors and their partners from Bolivia had a chance to visit Dakar team in La Paz bivouac during the rest day on Sunday between the stages. Both team pilot and co-pilot presented team’s car Toyota Hilux Overdive, explained about the Dakar rally itself and took all 25 CRAFT guests on a little tour around bivouac. All the guests were super excited and stayed in the bivouac till the sunset exploring impressive rally cars and meeting with most of the teams.


This strory is published in the BearingNEWS Febaruary 2017