I have been an active all-terrain vehicle sport fan and promoterfor many years. I am also a very big adventurist that likes diving in new challenges and adventures. The last adventure I dived smack started after a conversation with my good friendValdas (owner of “Motorider”). I don’t remember exactly what it all started from, but I know exactlywe were dreaming aloud to drive a SSV (SIDE By SIDE vehicle) that day. Eventually, the dream became reality and we started planning and preparing for the season of 2019.
First, we had tofind out as much information about this thing as possible. At the beginning, we did not even know whom to appeal and what to improve, so we made a decision to improve everything: wheels, tires, shock-absorbers etc. The first problem we encountered was that we got a lot of things too late and the second one – we made bad decisions about the technical improvements, such as height of tires, badly chosen shock-absorbers etc. Eventually, we solved these problems and now it is our experience with that we will go to the season of 2020.
In spite of problems with the mechanisms, we participated in a few really interesting competitions in 2019. The first competition we debuted was Endure rally. However, it was a debut not only for us, but for the total community of motobuggies because it was the first year it was possible to see class SSV in this rally. Unfortunately, there were just a few participants for the first time, but I am happy there were people and I hope this discipline will become more popular in the Baltic States like around the world in the future. It has already started, so it is necessary to continue.
In Endure rally, we rather fought against the cognition to familiarize with mechanisms than against other participants. We concentrated on our bad decisions, weaknesses and strengths mostly. The ruthless Rukla polygon track showed it all to us. We made the following conclusions after the competition: our wheels are small, shock-absorbers do not function normally and the yawn is wrong. Endure rally is over and we took the honourable 3rdplace (and it is not important there were just 3 participants J). That day, the most important thing for us was to test the mechanisms and reach the finish as well as find out what to improve because there are just a few weeks to the main challenge of the year – CFMOTO Hunt the Wolf.
These several weeks passed and it seems the tires did not even cool down. It was the third time I participated in the competition CFMOTO Hunt the wolf, but it was the first time with SSV. The most interesting thing was I drove just 400 km to CFMOTO HTW and it means I have the minimum knowledge about the mechanisms. In fact, our real acquaintanceship took place in the mountains.
Test day. We arrived earlier, so we had some time to try and test the mechanisms and us before whistling the start whistle. New tires, proper height (28 and not 26 inches) and good adhesion allows our motobuggy to pass the Extreme test track of 2018 quite simply and defeat hard hillsides and descents. I understand it is sometimes possible to drive this mechanism more aggressively than an all-terrain vehicle, but there is no wish to risk on the first day. That day, we drove with our old shock-absorbers because we did not get any new ones in Lithuania. At the end of the day, the organizers understood our position and allowed removing the shock-absorbers from their rescue buggy (I will always be grateful to them because they risked with their comfort and safety for us). That’s all. The mechanisms are prepared and we are „Ready to race“ .
1st Day. Standard morning and all morning procedures: shower, food, interview and start. This time, the start was not so exciting and horrible like previously. Maybe the reason is that it is the third start of CFMOTO HUNT THE WOLF, maybe because I did not promise anything to anybody. When I went to previous competitions with the team ATVFANAI RT, the feeling of responsibility and reluctance to disappoint always depressed next to the start because we always fought for a prize place. This time, it was different. We did not promise anything to anybody before the start, so the mood was excellent, the tension was controlled and everything seemed very well.
Our start was excellent, but we broke the axle shaft just after 3 km. We invited the team of mechanics (the assistance of other people is possible in our class), they replaced the axle shaft quickly and we kept on racing by overtaking one participant after another. It emerges Oliver (the main organizer) did not try his best with the tracks and joined the Crossover and Adventure tracks together. There was the only difference: Crossover had an extra loop every 3-4 km. There was much action in the track and the result of the first day was better than it was possible to dream – we were first and had an advantage of 15 minutes from the nearest rival. Everybody greeted us and hanged medals on the necks practically, but we realized it was the first day only, it was necessary to rejoice at the finish and work and not to relax before reaching it. The mechanics always have some work. Even if nothing is damaged, it is necessary to check everything. The most important question that day was why the axle shaft broke down. Why does the new one already crack??? It emerged the wheels turned too much, so the inner ring of the grenade did not sustain the load. The mechanics found a decision and the repaired mechanism was brought to a closed park for the night.
2nd Day: We began to feel thrill before the start. It aroused because we were first. Tactical games started here. Like real fighters inspired by the yesterday’s victory we pressed the accelerator and wandered much, the bolt of the cardan-joint got unscrewed and as a result the reducer broke down in the place that was terribly difficult and extreme to access for the mechanics with the all-terrain vehicle. In the end, they came and replaced the reducer quickly enough. While we were waiting, we removed all bolts, so it was only necessary to insert the reducer, add oil and move on.
Before continuing the trip, one of the team members said: “Just an hour has left to the time limit – hurry up“. After we heard this phrase, there was some panic related with time; as mischance would have it, our conversation device discharged and as a result there were a lot of tension, conflicts and curses with our navigator. A hurry and wish to overtake the lost time provoked silly navigating and driving mistakes. We reached the finish, but the tension did not disappear to the evening; then, we spoke quietly and ascertained all the problems that had been torturing us that day. We agreed about the way of solving them next time.
After the finish, we understood the only difference between our class and Crossover: we had to clock up the total track in the time limit. It is interesting time is calculated according to the time of our motion; thus, if we stand, time is not calculated. Let’s say the Italians let everybody go forward at the start and have a clean road, do not „shoulder“ with anybody, stop if they doubt whether the turn is correct, get off the buggy, walk around the territory and make sure they move to the correct direction. Meanwhile, we chose another strategy (not the best one), hurried and lost some time, but we were still first and had an advantage of 6 minutes. That day, we pressed the accelerator in all the places where it was possible. It is absolutely unimportant in the competition CFMOTO Hunt the Wolf if your buggy is 59 kW or 159 kW, the most important things are your team, cold mind, experience and abilities of orientation.
3rd Day: We did not learn any tactical games yet, went first and broke the way to everybody, cut trees and drew ruts for our rivals; as a result, it was easier for them to find the way. We wasted time, but we drove quickly. That day, we burned one belt, but it did not spoil our mood and good vibe. We were not first at the finish, but we were happy to avoid any bigger mistakes.
The euphoria was gloomed by the news one of the participants had not reached the finish. She died when she was trying to go down the mount that is called „Mount of Death“ by local people. We realized there would be no feast today – just sorrow and silent respect to the dead young and beautiful sportswoman. All the things that took place inside and outside the bivouac should remain for their participants.
In the evening, the competitions were suspended with the decision of sportspeople and organizers and the results were calculated on the basis of achieved results. In the total list, we remained second and it is a fanciful achievement both for us and all people using the mechanisms CFMOTO. In order to take such a high place in such a complicated and dangerous competition, much work must be done, but we did it.
After the competition CFMOTO Hunt The Wolf, we started preparing to the challenge of the marathon Breslau immediately. The preparation started from the navigator’s exit from the team. Then, I understood it was more difficult to find a navigator than a driver. While I was searching, I started learning the subtleties and peculiarities of the road book and the driver’s place was taken by Dalius Mockapetris, my friend who was a mechanic in Dakar, participated in karting and car races at least a few times per month. The decision to go together with Dalius was really good. He advised the winner of the all-terrain vehicle class of Dakar Sergei Karyakin about the nuances that should be known on participating in this type of competitions. After Dalius used his advice, he prepared the mechanisms perfectly, replaced the tires (this time to 30 inches) and performed his work in all the races and preparation brilliantly.
Maybe, there is no sense to describe each day of the rally because everything took place according to the plan. There were no technical problems, no accidents, no tension in the bivouac and the team was fanciful. Of course, there were a few adventures. For example, a hothead French spoiled the first day of the competition. We were driving in the group of leaders, i.e., 5-10 places, the speed was high and there was much dynamics. The positions changed after every navigation mistake of us or other participants. There was a moment a French overtook us, stopped suddenly by blocking the road and made us stop. It was not all – he backed up and hit our front wheel rudely a few times. Our steering-column was damaged with his hits. We had to stop and toe-in the wheels to reach the finish leastways. We lost much expensive time in this way. After this even, our speed decreased and steering became more complicated. That day, we lost very much time and fell to the end of the group – 26thposition from 36 ones. Later, we avoided the company of this French and everything was OK .
Both other participants and our navigation mistakes put a spoke in our wheel. When we started overtaking other participants on the second day of the competition, a lot of them started treating us with respect. Both the users of SSV and car racers. We relaxed as if we knew everything would be OK. We were „disturbed“ by my navigation mistake that cost us about 3-4 minutes. This misunderstanding made me quarrel with Dalius and solve problems still in the bolide. It was not easy then, we felt much tension and cursed each other. This tension was provoked by a wish to be first. We solved the problems and moved on.
The lessons learned during this quarrel saved us in the night speed sector on the fourth day. That night, there were about 20-30 cars and buggies wandering in one place and we were among those unfortunates. The tension started prevailing again, but Dalius suggested a decision how to find the way instead of waves of anger and it served the purpose. That morning, we finished in the 12thposition. Our position was less important compared with the joy to reach the finish. The colleague from the all-terrain vehicle class Ramūnas said: “It was the darkest night in my life“.
After the exhausting night speed sector, we had just a few hours to take a rest and prepare for the next trip. The next speed sector was in the military polygon of Dwarsko Pomorsk. It is one of the biggest military polygons of Europe and there are more roads than trees there JEverything was perfect, there were just a few small mistakes, no technical problems and we finished in the second place among SSV and in the fifth one among cars and participants of SSV.
When this 5-day marathon was over, we remained in the 8thplace in the total list. We lost much time because we got a lot of penalties inadvertently. Of course, the other participants also got penalties, so we are satisfied with the achieved result as we know the technical advantage and experience of our rivals. For us, it was the first time in the competition of the rally raid type with the road book. Do you know it? We „fell ill“ and if there is at least the minimum chance to drive in this kind of competition, we will participate certainly. I can state firmly we are addicts of rally raid. It is a disease and I do not want to recover. This year, we learned a lot of lessons and after we master them all, we will be stronger and more powerful and move to the season of 2020 that will be very interesting and unforgettable.