Arunas Gelazninkas is eyeing up a slice of Dakar history as he prepares for his first participation in the world's biggest rally. The Lithuanian rider is determined to improve on his country's best-ever finish in the bikes class, achieved by Balys Bardauskas when he came 81st a year ago. The 33-year-old could certainly be one to watch among the new faces in 2019, having secured a number of impressive victories this year. As well as topping the podium at the Balkan Offroad Rallye, he was crowned Baltic Cross-Country champion and Lithuanian Enduro & Cross-Country champion. Arunas began riding motocross as a nine-year-old in the mid-1990s, and now works as a motorbike instructor back home, passing on what he has picked up over almost 25 years. His passion naturally led him to discover enduro and cross-country seven years ago, and he has taken the time to work his way up to the Dakar. This year, he got a first taste of elite-level cross-country at the Merzouga Rally, where he placed just inside the top 60. Having followed that up with a podium at Baja Poland and his Balkan Offroad win, Arunas now looks ready to pit his wits against the most challenging rally of them all. With the help of KTM satellite team Duust, he'll be hoping to make it a memorable Dakar debut in Peru.
"I'm feeling really excited. We had the presentation of my team and bike in Lithuania, and there was quite a bit of media attention. Our country has some fast drivers in the cars -last year Antanas Juknevicius was 12th - but I'm hoping to beat the best Lithuanian finish in the bikes! I started riding motocross in 1995, so I've basically been doing it all my life. Seven years ago I started getting more into enduro and cross-country, with local races. And in the last two or three years I started thinking it would be great to do Dakar. "I began getting ready in earnest last year, going step-by-step: finding sponsors, doing rallies to get experience, figuring out the roadbook. My first proper rally was Merzouga 2018, which was really challenging. I ran out of fuel at one point, but I still did OK and managed to get to the finish line, that was the goal. Then in the summer I did Baja Poland and came third, before winning the Balkan Offroad Rally in September. I've had a lot of questions about the position I'm targeting at the Dakar but it's not really possible to say. The most important thing is getting to the finish line."
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