“I feel like I've already been through a baptism of fire”
Andrei Halabarodzka (sometimes spelt Goloborodko) will be taking part in his maiden Dakar this year, yet the Belarusian has already battled through a remarkable first "stage" between his home country and Marseille. The 48-year-old had an incredible adventure getting his Toyota Hilux to the south of France to be loaded onto the ferry for Saudi Arabia, due to problems with customs controls at the Polish border. With the help and support of competitors including Benediktas Vanagas, Sergei Kariakin and Siarhei Viazovich -as well as Dakar director David Castera- Andrei and his team finally completed a very stressful journey of over 2500 kilometres and made it to Marseille on time. Now he is focused on racing in the more traditional sense of the word, and getting his teeth stuck into the world's biggest rally with fellow compatriot Andrei Rudnitski. Although this will be his Dakar debut, Halabarodzka has been competing in classic rally for many years, winning his national title back in 2007. Rudnitski is something of an old hand, having already done the Dakar 8 times in one form or another. He has posted some impressive results as a co-driver, coming as high as 15th with Polish star Jakub Przygonski in 2016. He also completed the 2014 and 2015 editions with Vanagas, from whom the two Andreis obtained their car for Dakar 2021. The Belarusians are obviously better known for their exploits in the trucks category, where Viazovich has claimed two podium finishes, but Halabarodzka and Rudnitski will now be trying to put their country on the map in the cars, and improve on their country's best finish in the category: 105th for Siarhei Shkel in 2007.
A.H.: “I heard about the Dakar a long time ago, when I wasn't even into motorsport, I watched it on TV in the 1990s. It was another lifetime ago, I had no idea I might go there one day. I got started in motorsport in 2004, my first rally was Kauno Ruduo in Lithuania. I later met Lithuanian driver Benediktas Vanagas and became friends with him, we used to run into each other at different races. In 2016 I bought a rally car from Benediktas and got a first taste of rally raid in the Belarusian championship. There aren't many races or competitors, but I seemed to be doing well. I wanted something more serious so I signed up for the Russian championship, which also hosted the 'Northern Forest' round of the Bajas World Cup. I realised I liked rally raid, even if it's tough and physical. You can carry out a whole championship of traditional rally in the time it takes you to do a single stage of rally raid, it's much harder. For the Dakar we will have a 100% Belarusian team. Our Toyota Hilux used to belong to Benediktas, he drove two Dakars in it. We rebuilt it ourselves, taking everything apart, cleaning and repairing it and putting it back together again.
The journey certainly tested our mettle! At one point I was sitting in the car wondering what do to, whether to go on, even how to go on. Benediktas called and encouraged me. He said the Dakar was testing me, and that I'd go through a lot more on the race itself. I've also known Siarhei Viazovich for a very long time. I was the champion of Belarus when he got involved in rally, and we could immediately see how fast he was. When I was in the port of Marseille, I really felt the 'Dakar spirit'. I didn't feel like a rookie, but like someone who'd already been through a baptism of fire.”
- Mark : TOYOTA
- Model : HILUX
- Performance tuner : Team Pitlane
- Assistance : Team Pitlane
- Class : T1.1 petrol modified A-T 4x4
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