Finishing the gruelling Dakar rally is a feat for any rider, even for the factory outings. Finishing the Dakar in the Original by Motul class is an even greater feat. However, the man who wins it trumps it all. Lithuanian rider Arūnas Gelažninkas did just that.
Arūnas, a massive congratulations on winning the 2021 Dakar in the Original by Motul class. I take it you’ve returned safe and sound to Lithuania? What does it mean for you as a Lithuanian to win the event?
It’s incredible. Since my return, I’ve been doing so many interviews, and during the event, my participation in the Dakar made for daily prime time television. Overall, I believe it’s excellent for the reputation and attention of off-road racing in my country. It’s a sport that doesn’t usually get a lot of attention, but I was headline news because of my achievement. I can’t be happier about that.
This is your third Dakar. However, it’s the first time you participated in Original by Motul. How did you experience this event?
The Original by Motul class turns the Dakar into a real adventure. With assistance, the Dakar is not that hard. The Original by Motul is really how it used to be, and it’s a greater challenge. That’s what I really like about it. I have to be honest, there were many times that I wanted to take a nap when I came back to the bivouac, but I couldn’t as I had to work on the bike. The race itself went well. I didn’t make any mistakes and really enjoyed the battles we had. I set out with the idea of winning the category, and in the last stages, I even felt the top 20 overall rankings were within my grasp. In the end, I finished 21st, and I’m still delighted with that and winning the Original by Motul class.
What was your edge during these two weeks? What’s your secret to winning the Dakar?
I think I managed my energy and performance very well. During the first week, I rode at my own pace, not taking any risks. You can’t win the Dakar in the first week, but you can definitely lose it. In the second week, I started pushing myself a bit more. At this stage, I noticed a lot of other riders were already struggling with fatigue while I still felt solid and could push even more without exhausting myself.
The key to a good performance in the Dakar is usually preparation. How did you prepare for the event?
Yes, absolutely. I started preparing for the event in September, so I was in good shape by January. I worked out on a rigorous schedule. In 2021 I was in the best form I could be; well-rested and prepared for the challenge ahead.
You must have many stories about this year’s Dakar. If you had to pick one, what would it be?
I think the spirit of the Dakar is what makes this race unique. Although you’re riding on your own, you’re never alone. During one of the stages, I ran into one of the Sherco Factory riders who had run out of gas. I gave him three litres of petrol and helped him finish the stage. He ended up finishing the event as well. The funny part is that he overtook me in the last stage, finishing 20th. We had a good laugh about it. That is exactly what the Dakar is all about.