Vadim Pritulyak is keen on providing more racing opportunities for wounded Ukrainian troops in 2024 by bringing his SKARLAT-XTRM Team to the FIA World Baja Cup and other rallies in Europe.
The team made their début in October at the Spanish Cross-Country Rally Championship’s Rallye TT Cuenca on invitation from the inclusivity committee of the Real Federación Española de Automovilismo, who wanted to support Ukrainians injured in their defence from Russian invasion by having them become co-drivers. Pritulyak, a former Dakar Rally competitor, enlisted Sergey Romanovsky and Olexandr Gonzul for the role; Romanovsky lost his right leg fighting in the Donbas in 2014, while Gonzul’s left arm and right leg were destroyed in the battle for Dementiivka in 2022. Both have since had prostheses attached that enable them to walk and train again.
Romanovsky served as the navigator for Pritulyak in their SKARLAT 1000, a Ukrainian side-by-side vehicle designed to help evacuate the wounded from the frontlines, while Gonzul called the shots for the Spaniard Ivan Barbero in a Toyota FJ. The SKARLAT set the fastest time in the ParaBaja category for competitors with limited mobility, though the spirit of the class means everyone is celebrated regardless of their performance. Pritulyak hopes increasing the team’s presence in 2024 will further raise foreign interest in the car, and has started a foundation under his name to raise funds for building more.
“It was a real victory. Each of us was welcomed and applauded with the words ‘Slava Ukraini!’,” Pritulyak recalled. “During the second stage, on the second special, we were overtaking one team after another, then we started passing the main group. On the third special, we started at the back and didn’t overtake anyone; it happened that the Spaniards stopped and showed us to go ahead because they couldn’t keep up with the pace we set. We told them to go ahead, and we finished as everyone started. We were the only foreigners participating in the Spanish Championship, and we were greeted and applauded. It was really interesting.”
The FIA Baja World Cup, formerly the World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas, will be eight rounds long in 2024. Four are in Europe, including another Spanish date at the Baja España Aragón in July and the Baja Poland—geographically the closest to Ukraine—in August; while the other half of the schedule is in the Middle East, Pritulyak and SKARLAT are based in the United Arab Emirates which will host the penultimate Dubai International Baja in November. The FIA also has the five-race European Baja Cup that stays on the continent.
Besides increasing their schedule, SKARLAT-XTRM plans to bus approximately 50 to 100 Armed Forces of Ukraine personnel to each race to cheer them on. Pritulyak and those involved with the project have been vocal about the importance of using motorsport to help veterans, who are often inflicted with significant physical and mental scars from war, transition back to civilian life. Sentiment also runs high about eventually tackling the Dakar Rally with a crew solely of wounded AFU soldiers, a concept that has been successfully executed by Anglo-American and French teams in the past.
“We don’t want to be just extras. We plan to win,” said Pritulyak. “Through our participation and our victories, we want to show how it’s possible to for our warriors, severely wounded warriors with disabilities, to return to normal life in society. This is our goal.”