Benediktas Vanagas: I am looking forward to Baja Poland

People sometimes think that rally drivers are crazy. Actually, the best of them just uses combination of human handling, car abilities and physics - says Benediktas Vanagas, a well-known Lithuanian rally driver and participant of nine editions of the Dakar Rally, who we will see after a break in this year's Wysoka Grzęda Baja Poland.

Benediktas - You have been gone from the rally scene for a while? What happened?
Benediktas Vanagas:
It's an old story...

Back in the 2015 Dakar Rally I had an issue when I had to do a week with 4 broken left hand wrist bones. During that impact I also damaged my right hand wrist, but trauma was smaller.

Six years later during last Dakar my right hand wrist also "told" me no more. Had to do an unplanned surgery when back home.  

In March I had wrist and shoulder surgery. Actually issues with the wrist were "heavier" than we thought. So repeated surgery in May. 

Quite a long rehabilitation process after and "lost" half of season...

Our initial plan with all FIA Cross Country Bajas events had to be cancelled with probably the most "silent" season in my 20 years sporting career.

Why did You choose Wysoka Grzęda Baja Poland to come back ?
I have a special feeling for Poland.

Its about The Knight and The White Eagle. You know we had a mutual commonwealth back in history and these days Lithuania and Poland are strong allies. 

In my case Baja Poland was the first event I can do physically after the rehabilitation process.

I had 2 starts in this Baja Poland so far but did not manage to finish so it's a matter of principles now.

What are your rally plans for the nearest time?
Poland is first rally in a row. I really need to get back in shape to my sporting form. Afterwards we will do 2-3 more rallies, but they are not confirmed yet, as we do not have a chance to fight in any series anyway now.

This year Filipe Palmeiro is confirmed as my team co-driver. So there will be a possibility to see Filipe after a while, too.

What comes to Dakar, it should be my 10th edition so lets hope if all will go according to plan.

Is it still Toyota and Hilux?
We are going to use IMA (mid engine) version of Toyota Hilux Gazoo Racing. I think it's one of the last events in the T1 category as we all know that new T1+ regulations will start from next Dakar. More focus just after will be on new setup and engineering issues.

Anyhow I really miss my Hilux and looking forward to over 400 km of  special stages in Poland.

In the Dakar Rally You presented yourself with a big and professional team. Is there going to be a continuation?
It's a big honour for me to be trusted by the Toyota Gazoo Racing family. This gives the possibility to use the latest specifications of rally cars. 

What comes to the size of a team during Dakar 2022 I am not sure yet. We do have lots of inquiries of crews wanting to join Inbank TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Baltics. Anyhow we do not want to expand too much our team as servicing cars as we want to have the best quality possible. In the future I see 3-4 cars max within the team.

Our focus is sports marketing. If all goes according to plan You will see some new big professional units in Dakar 2022.

How do You remember your starts with the Polish co-driver Sebastian Rozwadowski? Is there a chance to return this duet?
Poland is our strategic Partner. I am sure Lithuania is for Poland also. It was really great to have this sports diplomacy topic, when part of sports were directed for working in having even better cooperation between our countries. Not many teams can do a presentation when ministers of foreign affairs of driver and co-driver countries are participating in team season launch.

Sebastian is a good friend of mine and we had a great mutual experience. Actually I believe that team connections with Poland will grow even more and we will have even more The Knight and The White Eagle synergy together. 

What do You think about Wysoka Grzęda Baja Poland and rally routes in Poland?
I like these conditions. It reminds me of Lithuania. With narrow sandy roads, forests, some mud if raining. Its specific and tricky conditions especially if compared with sand and rocks of Saudi's Dakar.

I think it's great when through the season drivers get ice, sand, hard and soft terrain, wide and narrow tracks, forests and desert, etc. 

Looking forward to Baja Poland.

Your plan for the Wysoka Grzęda Baja Poland 2021?
I am a fighter and never "cruise". Anyhow I had quite tough surgeries lately and was not in a Hilux seat for over 7 months.

Deficit of racing can not be without consequences and I need to get back to my speed. We will try to have a good racing atmosphere for our friends competitors and hope for nice gentlemen fight.

To be honest I miss all these guys we meet in different parts of the world. My break and pandemics changed The World a little bit, so I'm hoping to see all of them again.

So the spectators can count on a good sporting show and Your spectacular ride?
As I said earlier, I am not a "cruiser". Speed and technical driving is in my veins. I was doing classic rally  for more than 20 years with different group A, WRC, R5 cars. 

People sometimes think that rally drivers are crazy. Actually best of them just uses combination of human handling, car abilities and physics. If the set of first two are good, communication with the co-driver is good, then spectators can see a really spectacular view. 

That driving is called on the limit. If driving is over that edge that can cause some other spectacular and costly issues.





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