Saturday, April 20, 2024

Wounded Ukrainian troops to race SKARLATs at Rally TT Cuenca

Vadim Pritulyak, the first and only Ukrainian to complete the Dakar Rally on a bike, will bring a pair of wounded Ukrainian soldiers to Spain to race the Rally TT Cuenca, the final round of the Spanish Cross-Country Rally Championship on 20/21 October. The soldiers will be co-drivers on two SKARLAT XTRM buggies, with Pritulyak piloting one of them.

SKARLAT is a Ukrainian UTV brand with a base in the United Arab Emirates, where Pritulyak resides; he is also a spokesman for the marque. Their centrepiece Raptor 1000 is a rebadged Massimo Warrior 1000 MXD Crew, sporting a four-stroke V-twin engine capable of 80 horsepower. Measuring at roughly 154.5 inches (392.43 cm) long by 74.8 in (190 cm) wide and weighing at 2,530 pounds when dry (1,147.59 kg), the four-seater can tow 1,763 pounds (800 kg) which makes it capable of rapid cargo transport and evacuating wounded personnel from battle. A racing-spec version called the XTRM underwent three weeks of testing in desert environments led by in May. He hopes to unveil the SKARLAT at the Rally TT Cuenca and raise interest from outside investors.

XTRM is the name of Pritulyak’s sportswear brand, and his team also competes under the SKARLAT-XTRM banner. Autolife Ukraine, an auto repair shop specialising in restoring vehicles like the Toyota Land Cruiser, will support the team at the Rally TT Cuenca.

In August, the Real Federación Española de Automovilismo‘s inclusivity committee invited the Automobile Federation of Ukraine to bring troops wounded in combat to the Rally TT Cuenca, where they can become navigators for cars competing in the ParaBaja category. The class is organised by ParaBaja Step by Step, an organisation dedicated to providing opportunities in racing for people with reduced mobility. ParaBaja entrants are not timed nor are they included in race results as the programme’s mission is simply to celebrate them taking part.

Vitaliy Yevtyekhov, a Ukrainian co-driver with Dakar Rally experience, applauded the offer and described it as an important step in helping soldiers recovering from the traumas of war. Yevtyekhov also envisioned similar programmes being established for multiple motorsport disciplines across Ukraine and potentially a crew of exclusively injured Ukrainian troops competing at Dakar; the latter is reminiscent of Race2Recovery, a team of British and American troops wounded in Afghanistan, that ran the 2013 and 2014 Dakar Rallies.

If the Rally TT Cuenca effort succeeds, Pritulyak intends to expand it to other cross-country rallies in Europe like the Baja Poland and Hungarian Baja.

Pritulyak competed at the Dakar Rally from 2009 to 2011. A former company leader in the Ukrainian Air Assault Forces whose brother was a colonel in the Russian Army, he led a joint Russo-Ukrainian team at the 2014 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge with a message of peace and unity following Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea, though the sentiment has understandably withered since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine began in 2022.