Mindaugas Plukys bought the Navara, found sponsors to help him modify it, and he has shipped his truck across the Atlantic Ocean to the start line in Lima, Peru. After applying for media accreditation from event organizers, he will be following the same route as the competitors – beginning on January 6 – and sending back articles, images and video for media outlets on Facebook.com/iGo2Dakar.
Timing for this “trip of a lifetime” expedition could not be more perfect for Mindaugas. As the grueling Dakar Rally celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2018, he will be doing the same thing later in the year.
“There is something about the Dakar Rally which has always inspired me, and this adventure has been five years in the planning,” said Mindaugas. “I always said I’d do it before my 40th birthday, so getting to South America in January 2018 has been my goal.”
Mindaugas lives in Vilnius, Lithuania. He works for Nissan as part of the communications team in the Baltic region, which means the “tough and smart” Nissan Navara was always going to be the vehicle to make his dream come true.
He bought the pickup in September 2017. Since then, he has been working with aftermarket component suppliers to upgrade the Navara. His goal: make it ready to tackle the route that many consider the world’s toughest endurance race.
The vehicle is a Double Cab model powered by a 2.3-liter 160PS diesel engine linked to a six-speed manual transmission. Finished in Flame Red, the ride height has been raised 4cm with an Old Man Emu suspension system. Nissan side bars and a rear bumper bar have been added to improve styling and durability. A Rival underbody protection system has also been fitted. Nighttime visibility is improved by a Hella LED light bar. A plastic load liner and aluminum load cover provide secure storage.
On the roof are Thule cross bars and roof rack, plus a Lazer Triple R 16 LED bar for additional lighting. The exterior is finished with 18-inch black alloys and Cooper Discoverer ST Maxx tires. Inside the Navara is standard apart from a 220V power converter plus the addition of four extra USB sockets.
“The tough and smart character of the Nissan Navara makes it the perfect vehicle for this adventure,” said Mindaugas. “Apart from the suspension upgrades and body protection, it’s a standard vehicle. Every other new component is there to make life easier. The route through South America will be hard, but I expect the Navara to cope with it.”
The Dakar Rally is a hugely popular sporting event with Lithuanian car fans. Competing in the 2018 edition are three drivers – two co-drivers and a motorcyclist – all from a country with less than three million inhabitants.
Mindaugas, who is accompanied by photographer Andrius Laucius, will be following the competitors as they leave the Dakar Rally start line on January 6. Two weeks, 14 stages, 9,000 km and three countries later, the pair plan to be crossing the finishing line in Cordoba, Argentina.
The Navara is built on more than 80 years of Nissan pickup heritage. It was the winner of the prestigious International Pickup Award 2016, and more than 50,000 units have been sold across European markets in the last two years.