Martin Soltys is set for a baptism of fire as he embarks on his first Dakar in 2018, although he and fellow rookie Tomas Sikola will be joined by a living legend, Josef Kalina, in their Tatra Phoenix 2.0. Now 68, Josef has been involved in the Dakar since the days of founder Thierry Sabine, and estimates that he has taken part in the rally 25 times in one capacity or another, either as a competitor, team manager or member of the organisation. A pioneer in terms of getting eastern European countries involved in the rally, Josef spent many years as a navigator for Karel Loprais, one of the most successful truck drivers in Dakar history, and guided him to victory on three occasions (1994, 1999, 2001). Martin will therefore be in capable hands as he looks to make it a memorable debut. While he has plenty of experience in buggy racing, the 44-year-old only got his first taste of rally raid earlier this year, and it didn't go too well - the crew ended up abandoning the Hungarian Baja, while Martin suffered a nasty injury. He believes he has learned from that experience, though, and will be relying on Josef's guidance to make it through the sand dunes unscathed. More importantly, the trio will be looking to provide support for team leader Martin Kolomy, who is targeting overall victory.
MS: "I'm very much looking forward to my first Dakar. Unfortunately my first encounter with rally races in Hungary didn't turn out very well, and I suffered a rather serious injury, but now I am back at full strength and ready to achieve the best possible result at the jubilee 40th Dakar. When I was given the opportunity to take part in one of the most famous motorsport races in the world I didn't hesitate for a second. I'm very glad that we have Josef Kalina in our crew, because his years of experience and extensive knowledge will be of invaluable use. I don't know if I'm qualified to give my opinion, due to my limited experience, but the Phoenix has shown that she can really fly.” JK: “The Dakar can be very surprising for newcomers. Sometimes, after three or four days, they start to think that maybe it would have been better to stay at home! I have been put in the crew as a kind of instructor, or teacher, so for us it will be an educational race. We don't have too many hopes about being near the top, and it wouldn't be very smart to push the guys too hard. At the same time we are here to support Martin Kolomy, so we can't just take it easy. Getting through the dunes will be a big task, because a lack of experience on the sand can be a dramatic thing. I have to be careful yet I cannot hesitate, so I will try to do my best!”
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