As the stages of Rally Sweden unfolded just outside the Arctic Circle, a chill was sent down the spines of millions of people as Russia began an invasion of Ukraine that’s been going for five days and counting.
It was on everyone’s minds. That includes Rally Sweden winner Kalle Rovanperä, who said it was hard to celebrate his victory while a war was going on.
The FIA’s line provided to DirtFish was straightforward: “The FIA continues to monitor the events closely; all our resources are mobilized to find the best answers in the interest of sport and peace,” its statement read.
It has been an unavoidable topic. And for Nikolay Gryazin in WRC2, a difficult one to address in the middle of a rally.
“I try to separate it. Now [I’m] doing only rally,” he told DirtFish.
“I don’t want to comment it, sorry. We are doing sports here.”
For two-time European Rally Champion Alexey Lukyanuk there will be no sports happening anywhere.
A staple of the regional series for nearly a decade now, Lukyanuk has always brightened up the action with his full-send driving and maximum commitment.
There are practical reasons for not lining up another campaign this year. But more importantly than that, it simply isn’t the time. Rallying stops existing when your country goes to war against a neighboring country, against the will of the much of its population.
We do not need war. We are for sport, friendship and peace. I have Ukrainian family name, though live in Russia. My co-driver’s wife is half Ukrainian with relatives there. We’ve got a question on one of the forums, if we plan any participation. pic.twitter.com/2IuzcsrZu4
— Alexey Lukyanuk (@AlexeyLukyanuk) February 27, 2022
“It’s quite complicated to describe our situation and our feelings. Everyone I know is not supporting this s***. Absolutely terrible feeing,” Lukyanuk tells DirtFish.
Usually there’s no stopping Lukyanuk when it comes to speaking his feelings. He’ll crack jokes when he’s feeling in the groove, deploying sarcastic quips when he’s not happy with something on the stages – or bluntly describing his indignation when really ticked off.
But what’s happening right now is much, much bigger than rallying. Lukyanuk speaks slowly, with great thought and heavy weight on his shoulders.
“We cannot entertain ourselves and others in this situation when people are dying,” he says, when asked why he’s not planning to go rallying.
For Lukyanuk this is quite personal. He has family history across both nations. Lukyanuk is a Ukranian name. His co-driver Alexey Arnautov’s wife is Ukrainian. And he’s been a vocal advocate for peace between the two nations for many years.
One part of that voice was expressed through his car livery, which featured a ‘We Want Peace’ banner decked in both Russian and Ukrainian flags not long after the annexation of Crimea in 2014.
“It was a project we had co-operation with a Ukrainian co-driver and a person in politics, Yevgen Chervonenko, and joined to promote ideas of peace.
“This livery is still quite relevant. I would like to race with it again.”
What happens next is unclear to the entire world. When a rally driver plans to get back in a car is at the very bottom of any Russian citizen priority list right now.
“I think no-one can say anything right now because no-one understands what’s happening,” Lukyanuk says.
“No-one knows the real situation and real things, so we just can sit and wait. I will try to express ourselves to say something not to stand still.
“I would think about the situation out of any sports relation. We just should be people. Just man, standing together. It doesn’t matter if you’re a sportsman, or a singer, or whatever.”