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KTU Alumni Darius Vaičiulis Co-Piloting in Dakar Rally 2018

Paulius Garkauskas photo

Kaunas University of Technology (KTU) alumni, businessman Darius Vaičiulis is one of the participants of Dakar Rally starting in Lima, Peru on Saturday 6 January. Mr Vaičiulis is the co-pilot in one of the 4 Lithuanian teams, piloted by Antanas Juknevičius, who is currently holding the Dakar record for the Baltic States.

This is not the first collaboration for Mr Vaičiulis and Mr Juknevičius – they have participated in the Rally in Libya 10 years ago.

According to Mr Vaičiulis, there are several tasks assigned for a co-pilot in a rally. Firstly, you have to keep to the general rules of organising work and the timetable: “You need to know when to go to sleep and when to get up, how many kilometres you will need to make in a day, what difficulties or obstructions to expect”.

Also, the participants need to analyse the road book and to possess some skills and knowledge in mechanics. All the teams get the road books in the evening, therefore they have some time to analyse them and to prepare for the race.

Mr Vaičiulis says that technical assistance to the driver is one of the most important tasks for the co-pilot. According to him, speed, stamina, orientation, driving ability are of equal importance in the race.

“Speed is good, but if the pilot lacks technical driving skills the team will inevitably suffer an accident. Also, if the co-pilot will not manage to catch up with the navigation, you will be lost”, says Darius Vaičiulis.

The Toyota piloted by Lithuanians is already loaded with 500 litres of aviation fuel, which is enough for 1 thousand kilometres. The racers are also taking 3 extra wheels, food, water and a satellite phone.

“We try not to overload, as the weight of the vehicle is also very important”, says Vaičiulis.

Vaičiulis, Chairman of the Board of KTU Alumni Association is co-pilot of a Lithuanian team Craft Bearings, driven by one of the most professional cross-country rally drivers in Lithuania Antanas Juknevičius. In 2017, finishing Dakar Rally in the 21st position, Juknevičius became the Dakar champion for the Baltics.

Dakar Rally 2018, starting in Lima, Peru, on January 6, runs through Argentina and Bolivia, and will finish in Córdoba, Argentina, on January 20 after 14 stages of competition.