In a month and a half, Utena will once again become the center of the Lithuanian and Latvian rally. As we mark the remaining days until the competition in our calendars, we can recall what happened last fall.
The return to the Utena region after a seven-year break was truly impressive. Even before the rally started, there was so much going on that it seemed as if the season was just beginning, not ending. A large number of famous and fast foreign crews came to test the unique special stages of the Utena region. Rally itself had the status of a stage of the Latvian Championship. Lithuanians were also ready to defend their honor. Some even came to competition with newer cars. The hype was boundless, although the Lithuanian rally champion had already been decided by that time.
So that everything did not run like clockwork, the rain ensured that the autumnally decorated roads were considerably softened and made more slippery. This raised the difficulty level of the rally by at least twice. The competition, which began on Friday afternoon, revealed several cards at once. Justas Tamašauskas, who achieved an excellent result in the “Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo” in the last rally, had the additional task of pouring liquid into the damaged radiator already on the first day of the rally, which partially withdrew him from the fight for the top positions. After one of the endless jumps, the engine of Jonas Sluckaus’ Škoda Fabia R5 refused to stay in the chassis after contact with a tree. Fortunately, the safety systems in the cars nowadays are at the highest level and the crew was not injured. As was to be expected – in 2021, at the side of Finnish radio star Janni Hussi, “Junior WRC” world champion Sami Pajari proved why he is already fully competing with the fastest in the world this year.
A wet Saturday dawned, which meant that none of the competitors could rest and Saturday would be just as exciting as Friday. A large crowd gathered in the stages and the drivers had a truly spectacular time battling both each other and the really difficult rally conditions. In this case, experience played a big role, which is why Finn Sami Pajari, who is competing in the World Rally Championship, did not leave any hope with the Škoda Fabia N5+. The extremely fast and precise driving of the Finn brought him the second victory in the absolute classification of his career and the only victory so far for the co-driver, for whom it was only the second competition in her life. Second place was stubbornly defended by Dominykas Butvilas, but after he had an accident, the fate of second place was decided until the last millimeters of the rally by the efforts of Vladas Jurkevičius and Giedrius Notkus. Although Giedrius gave everything in the final stage, Vladas Jurkevičius won second place by a margin of 2.7 seconds. Impressively, Martynas Samsonas drove the last special stage and even managed to move up to fifth place overall in the final sprint with his famous “BMW M3”.
Last year’s autumn has stuck for many locals and visitors in the Utena region. This rally festival brought a smile not only to the faces of those who directly participated in it, but also to all those who were close to the action. This was the case last year, and it is likely that this year will be no less fun and interesting, so we will meet on September 30 and October 1.