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When he first started the Dakar, back in 2003, it was a far different adventure. Fifteen years later, Antanas Juknevicuis’s goals have considerably changed and so has his quest for a good result. He obviously still keeps fond memories of his first Dakar, back in 2003 when he was able to reach the finish in Sharm El Sheikh in 51st position. His odysseys in South America have been just as eventful and fascinating. After capturing an amazing 25th spot in 2009, he was then to live a nightmare five years later in a Toyota FJ Cruiser, mostly driving in the dust and at night, all the way to the finish. Seeking for a good result, his Dakar career changed when he acquired a Toyota Hilux prepared by Overdrive. A key turning point: these last two years he has never stopped improving: 27th in 2016 and 21st last year, best ever performance by a Lithuanian crew. And they want to go higher, as high as co-driver Darius Vaiciulis went when he conquered the highest peak in Australasia, the Puncak Jaya (4884m).
A.J.: “The Dakar Rally has become a pretty big part of my life since my first start back in 2003. In fact, I was on the start line of 3 milestone Dakar Rallies – 25th, 30th and now we will be participating in the 40th edition. The race moved to another continent and we grew accordingly. Our team got bigger, our ambitions increased along the way. Overall, the 2017 Dakar Rally was a step forward not only for us as a team, but for the whole country as well. A new best performance for any team from Lithuania and the Baltic States in the car category. It’s a proud achievement that I am happy to reach for the second time in my career. I can say I’m satisfied with the job we’ve done in 2017 and it was yet another great year to gather valuable information which will definitely help us to reach even greater heights in 2018. Our preparation for this year included one FIA Cross Country World Cup stage in Kazakhstan. I think it was a great way to keep the top form as well as to test our car to find even the smallest parts still under question. Moreover, it was another great chance to further improve the cooperation with my co-driver, because it will be only our second Dakar together. My goal hasn’t changed over the past years and will remain similar: to further push the limits of what a pretty small yet efficient team from the Baltics can achieve in the toughest race on the planet. Now I come to Dakar not only to fulfil my dream or go on an adventure. I come there to be amongst the like-minded people that still believe in the good old-fashioned challenge for yourself – your body, your mind and your courage. Being a part of the Dakar Rally 2018 is continuing on my path and reaching new goals every single time I’m there.”
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