Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Rokas Baciuska on T1+ debut: “We actually got used to the car really fast”

A T1+ represents the best of the best in rally raid while a T4 is a production side-by-side vehicle. Despite the disparity between vehicles, T4 star Rokas Baciuška looked like a natural in his first race piloting a T1 car at the Baja España Aragón; if not for “just a few slip ups,” he could have been on the podium on début.

Driving a Toyota Hilux T1+ prepared by Overdrive Racing, Baciuška finished ninth overall with a total time of 6:34:31, fifteen minutes back of winner and Hilux driver Nasser Al-Attiyah.

However, context-less box scores can be deceiving as Baciuška received an eight-minute time penalty for missing a waypoint in the first stage dropped him from what would have been the third fastest overall time. Consequently, he completed the day in eleventh whereas a penalty-less run ranked him fourth. Baciuška rebounded in Stage #2 on Saturday by leading for much of the day only to suffer a tyre puncture that relegated him to sixth.

“This was a great training session.Top ten on our first try, I think this is a really good result for us,” he recapped. “If we removed that eight-minute penalty and that puncture, we would be third overall. We actually got used to the car really fast with only 600 kilometres on our belts, it’s almost nothing. Legends and elite drivers have already done many Dakars and uncountable thousands of kilometres. The team is really happy and surprised by the pace.”

Baciuška currently leads the World Rally-Raid Championship in the T4 category by a wide margin, having won the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge and Sonora Rally after finishing runner-up at the Dakar Rally. The reigning T4 champion is eyeing a move up to T3 for Light Prototype SSVs in 2024, while the start in the T1+ was intended to give him more experience in different equipment and is not necessarily foreshadowing a graduation to that high of a class so soon. Nonetheless, he is open to doing more races in the Hilux if the opportunity arises.

“We will try to get the budget needed to race with T1+ machinery. Our goal was to save the car from damage and don’t get a big bill for the repair afterwards,” he commented.

Entering the next W2RC round in Argentina in August, Baciuška has a 103-point lead in T4 over Eryk Goczał, who beat him at Dakar but is not running the full season, and 110 on fellow full-timer Shinsuke Umeda.