N°325 Car AGRORODEO

VAIDOTAS ZALA

(ltu) 1.83m / 75kg

Sponsors

Agrorodeo, Motul, Šiaulių bankas, Bunasta, Klaipėdos FEZ, Švenčių studija, Nosted

2020: 26th (1 stage win)
2019: 12th
2018: 18th
2017: Ab. Stage 5
2016: Ab. Stage 11

2020: Lithuanian Rally Championship (1st); Rally Zemaitija (1st), Samsonas Rally Rokiskis (2nd), Rally Elektrenai (1st), Samsonas Rally Around 7 Lakes (2nd)
2019: Lithuanian Rally Championship (1st); Rally Zemaitija (1st), Rally Elektrenai (1st), Samsonas Rally Rokiskis (1st), Rally Classic (1st)
2018: Rally Classic (1st), Rally Elektrenai (2nd), Samsonas Rally Rokiskis (1st), Rally Zemaitija (1st)
2017: Samsonas Rally Rokiskis (4th), Rally Zemaitija (7th)
2016: 300 Lakes Rally (1st), Rally Zemaitija (3rd)
2015: Classic Rally Druskininkai (1st), DHL Rally Elektrenai (1st), 300 Lakes Rally (2nd)
2014: Classic Rally Druskininkai (1st), Ralis Kauno Ruduo (4th), Rally Zemaitija (4th)
2013: Classic Rally Druskininkai (5th), Rally Ozerniy Kray (1st), Halls Winter Rally (7th)

Interview

“It's put us on the map in the rally raid community”

Vaidotas Zala was one of the sensations of Dakar 2020 after his stunning victory on the opening stage. The 33-year-old Lithuanian and his co-driver Saulius Jurgelenas sprang a major surprise between Jeddah and Al Wajh, coming in ahead of rally legends Stéphane Peterhansel, Carlos Sainz and Nasser Al-Attiyah to go down as the first ever stage winners in the cars on Saudi Arabian soil. As the rally progressed, Vaidotas and Saulius were unable to keep pace with the big guns, but they were still on course for a top-15 finish until running into major mechanical issues on the final day. Fortunately, with the help of the X-Raid assistance team, they were able to fix their John Cooper Works Rally and make it to the finish line, but after losing over five hours they had to settle for 26th place. Having made something of a name for himself last year, Vaidotas heads to Dakar 2021 with highly experienced co-driver Paulo Fiuza. The Portuguese comes in as a late replacement for Saulius, who is unfortunately unable to compete due to a spinal injury. Having been accompanied by his compatriot since his debut in 2016, Vaidotas will now have to get used to communicating in English in the car -but he speaks it fluently and should be in very safe hands with Paulo, who is gearing up for his 12th Dakar. The 45-year-old has been a factory co-driver for many years, guiding the likes of Ricardo Leal dos Santos, Orly Terranova and Carlos Sousa to top-10 finishes on the Dakar, and coming 3rd with Peterhansel last year. Vaidotas has been racing for around a decade, since competing his university studies in the British city of Birmingham. A regular on the Lithuanian rally circuit, he won his national title in 2019 and managed to successfully defend it during the coronavirus-affected 2020 season. He has enjoyed mixed fortunes on the Dakar, failing to finish in 2016 and 2017 due to mechanical issues with a Lithuanian-built Seat, and then coming 18th and 12th in a more reliable Toyota Hilux in 2018 and 2019. Vaidotas is a little superstitious about discussing his targets ahead of the rally, but fellow Lithuanian competitor Benediktas Vanagas believes he has the potential to finish inside the top 10. With Paulo on board, the Vilnius native will certainly be up there -and even if last year's opener will live long in the memory, he would happily trade another stage win for a strong overall finish.

V.Z.: "The stage win was really unexpected! It was a really good feeling. It has sort of put us on the map in the rally raid community, and that's been really helpful. In Dakar, a good stage result is nice, but a good overall result is much nicer, and that's what I'm focused on now. This year, if I do well on stages -finishing 3rd, 5th, 7th- it's no surprise anymore. Now I want to increase the consistency and avoid any trouble as much as possible. Last year, after some impacts, Saulius started feeling pain in the hand, and it got worse over the course of Dakar. After he came back, the medical inspection showed that he had trauma in the upper level of the spine, around the neck. He did some final medical checks in early November, and the conclusion was: it's better, but it's still risky. So in the end we decided to let Saulius rest and asked for X-Raid's help, and luckily Paulo was available. I've never done the Dakar in English. I've done classic rallying in English, but the language and pacenotes are way simpler, the range of vocabulary is very narrow. The Dakar is a different story. The co-driver has to describe varying terrain and different navigation situations, so communication is important. Paulo did Dakar 2020 with Stéphane in English, and ultimately the most important things are: don't get lost, and warnings about dangerous places. It will be interesting for me to see how he works in the co-driver position. With Saulius we've worked our way up from a basic level, learning and improving on the way, getting advice from more experience drivers. It was a process of self-development.
This will be my 6th Dakar, and I think I am getting more and more reliable, more and more consistent. I think this year should be a good year if everything goes well. I have this small rule that if I talk about my expectations -specifically before the start of the rally- I'm afraid they will not be fulfilled. Perhaps I have a target in mind, but it's a strict rule not to talk about it. The main target is to avoid mistakes. Of course there will be trouble, punctures and whatnot, because there's never been a year without them, even for the top guys. You always have issues on such a long and tricky race. The trick is to keep them to a minimum."

Vehicle

AGRORODEO

  • Mark : MINI
  • Model : JOHN COOPER WORKS RALLY
  • Performance tuner : X-Raid
  • Assistance : EAMV Motorsport
  • Class : T1.2 diesel modified A-T 4x4

Ranking 2021

Scratch Stage General
0 19 19 19
1 36 36 34
2 61 61 -
3 - - -
4 - - -
5 - - -
6 - - -
7 - - -
8 - - -
9 - - -
10 - - -
11 - - -
12 - - -

All news of V. Zala

Newsflashes - 06/01 08:52 [GMT +3] - Auto

It's all over for Žala…

After setting a ferocious pace in the opening stage, Vaidotas Žala ran into mechanical issues on Monday. His crew seemed to have located the source of the problem: the gearbox. After spending the entire evening getting his hands dirty, the Lithuanian seemed confident to be able to start stage 3, but a broken engine has put paid to those hopes. It is a crushing blow...

Newsflashes - 04/01 12:11 [GMT +3] - Auto

Problem for Zala

Vaidotas Zala, who was battling for the lead during the first stage before dropping down the standings, has come to a standstill after 132 km of the link route and has not started the special. However, the cause of the Lithuanian’s problems is as yet unknown.

Newsflashes - 03/01 15:51 [GMT +3] - Auto

Žala flounders in the closing kilometres

After going into the closing moments of the stage in the top 5, Vaidotas Žala has ended up conceding almost 45 minutes to the winner. The Lithuanian driver went from a scorching start to a torrid finish.

Newsflashes - 03/01 12:21 [GMT +3] - Auto

Žala still going strong

Vaidotas Žala is still in the lead after 71 kilometres with half a minute to spare over Stéphane Peterhansel. Giniel De Villiers has faded somewhat and is now almost 2 minutes and 30 seconds down, but still ahead of Nasser Al-Attiyah.

Newsflashes - 03/01 12:08 [GMT +3] - Auto

Žala off to a scorching start

Vaidotas Žala is now in control of the car race. The Lithuanian and his Mini are setting themselves up for a repeat of their victory in last year's inaugural stage. Giniel De Villiers and Stéphane Peterhansel were second and third, respectively, at the first checkpoint.

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