This year, the Lithuanian Rally Championship has been enriched with new cars, which is a great pleasure both to drive and to watch on the special stages. The idea of Martynas Samsonas has updated the fleet of Lithuanian rally field so that 8-10 N5+ and N5 cars gather at the LARČ events. Of course, this amount of equipment also determines the fact that the competition among themselves this season is really very big.
The most attention this year is attracted by the duel between two crews in the class LARČ5, in which N5 cars compete. These crews – Neds Radišauskas with Justas Vičiūnas and Rokas Steponavičius with Dovydas Ketvirts. Both crews had driven the very powerful but not-so-easy-to-handle rear-wheel-drive BMW M3s before sitting next to the modern VW Polo N5 and Ford Fiesta N5. They also both switched co-drivers before the season began. The switch to the much more comfortable driving equipment and the new co-drivers went extremely smoothly, and it was clear from the first event in Mažeikiai that Nedas and Rokas would play the first violins in this class.
And so it happened that these two friends in life, but rivals in special stages, fought all season long for the smallest fractions of a second. But the white VW Polo N5, in which Nedas and Justas sat, did it better. Rokas Steponavičius did not finish the rally in Mažeikiai due to a mechanical failure and missed the event in Rokiškis due to health problems. Before the penultimate event of the LARČ calendar in Elektrėnai, it looked like Nedas and Justas would secure the LARČ5 championship title, but in the fourth special stage of this rally, a hidden stone damaged the car and forced the crew to stop. Meanwhile, Rokas Steponavičius made up for the positions he lost at the beginning of the rally and won the LARČ5 classification, filling up his points account as much as possible. Before the epilogue of the season “Samsonas Rally Utena” 2023, the situation is as follows – Nedas Radišaukas leads ahead of Rokas Steponavičius with a margin of 19 points. Considering the competition in this class and the fact that the last stage of the LARČ is rated with a coefficient of 1.5 points, the fight will be extremely tough.
The heroes of this fight shared their thoughts about the upcoming final:
The final battle for the title of champion of the LARČ5 class is approaching – did you expect at the beginning of the year to have to fight for the title of champion at the end of the year?
Nedas Radišauskas: From the first tests, the VW Polo N5 just felt perfect. It seemed as if nothing had to be changed – neither in the driving style nor in the pace notes. Of course, the differences became apparent with every kilometer, but everything just made me happier. I won’t hide it, I hoped, but I didn’t believe that this season could be like that, and it’s a pleasant surprise.
Rokas Steponavičius: At the beginning of the season I mentioned that we were racing for fun – that has not changed now. If I had been crazy about the name of the champion, I would have driven through pain at the Rokiškis rally, but it was decided to rest.
How has this battle changed or improved you as a racer?
Nedas Radišauskas: Rokas is a competitor only on stages. In life, we are friends. Just like last year, he’s helping me move forward and get faster – from advice on how to get the most grip in the corners with the BMW M3 to any question I have about N5s.
Rokas Steponavičius: It’s hard to say if anything has changed – as with any racer, you improve when you do more sports mileage, and when you are racing in a battle, that may happen faster.
How are you preparing for the final highlight of the LARČ season, Samsonas Rally Utena 2023?
Nedas Radišauskas: The team did its best to prepare for Utena. Rally Elektrėnai has significantly damaged the suspension of the VW Polo N5, so the mechanics Rimas and Mantas put everything back in place. Justas Vičiūnas does not waste his time either – he takes part in the “Perimetras” Rally-raid competition, and I wait to enjoy the icing on the cake of this season.
Rokas Steponavičius: The preparation for the rally “Samsonas Rally Utena” started immediately after Elektrėnai when we disassembled the car – the shock absorbers were sent for restoration, a new turbine was ordered because we drove the last two sections of the Elektrėnai Rally with scratched exhaust wings, some suspension parts were replaced. We are not preparing specifically, it looks like I will not have any tests before this rally, so I will have to fire up the simulator. Let us meet in Utena, let us have a good time, let us admire the last stage of this year’s Lithuanian Rally Championship and let us get a good feeling!
You can buy your Rally Pass to “Samsonas Rally Utena 2023” here