At this year’s Dakar Classic, Ondřej Klymčiw placed 24th, but for many he is at least the moral winner. The entire race went to support the Paraple Center, which cares for people with spinal cord injuries.

Each of his stages had a sponsor who contributed a certain amount to Paraple for every kilometer driven. This fundraiser runs until the end of January, and there are still some crowns missing from the target million, so if you want, you can donate directly HERE.

Strike the iron while it’s hot, they say. That’s why we didn’t hesitate and went to the pilot Ondra Klymčiv in person to interview him. Perhaps also on the subject of why the Spaniards wrote a petition against him…

Photo: ASO

Although Klymchiw finished in 24th place, for many he is the moral winner.

Ondro, to begin with, how is the Dakar Classic different from the classic Dakar?

Old cars (originals, replicas) up to the year of production 2000 are used here, which once competed in the Dakar. In the first year of the Dakar Classic, however, there was an exception that rally cars from group B could start, which the Škoda 130 LR fulfilled. The following year, this exception no longer applied.

The race itself is run at average speed, so you have to be precise both in navigation and speed. In addition to speed tests, there are also navigation tests, which are driving from point to point in a straight line, mostly on open terrain.

Photo: ASO/G.Epifanio, Fotop

The first version of the Škoda 130 LR was more of a car for the Czech rally than the Saudi Dakar.

In short, you have to drive like in a computer game and immediately decide where to continue in difficult sections. You really need to think about whether you take the dune head on, when there is a risk of falling in, or around when you deviate from the ideal route. However, each meter deviation or lost time is for penalty points.

You said that this year’s track was challenging. In what?

The tracks have become perhaps twice as difficult compared to the past. For me, the fifth and sixth stages (the first part) were the most difficult, which took place in shallow sand. There, the car doesn’t take a breath for a second, it keeps going “full”. You are fully engaged as a driver, as is the passenger (navigator).

To some extent, the higher difficulty made the whole thing beautiful. We finished the fifth stage first, we dominated the navigation stages, because I learned it from motorbikes. But it wasn’t free, it was literally extorted.

Which bright moments were the best in the whole Dakar Classic?

A good moment was when we won the navigation tests. I enjoyed how my passenger Pepa Brož, who had never seen navigation, was able to learn so quickly. And I enjoyed the atmosphere of our three-member team and the fans, who were already contributing to the Umbrella Center. That whipped us to do our best work. The fact that we’re doing it for a good cause. And that’s a huge motivation.

Photo: ASO/Fotop

The Škoda 130 LR almost dominated the first eight stages of the Classic.

And what about the worst moments? Were there moments when you wanted to wrap it up?

It was in the sixth stage that I had no oil in the engine and no pressure in the lubrication system. Everyone told me not to start the engine, to save it, to have the car towed, but I swindled (and burned) 15 liters of oil from the organizer and left the stage (200 km). But during it there was a threat that the car could stop at any second and it would be over. And you won’t do anything about it.

Was there anything else that drove you forward besides the Umbrella Center project?

Children. One day they would like to challenge me at the Dakar. And I had the motivation to beat them in first place, to set the bar very high for them. If I won, they would have to win the Dakar Classic twice – once to catch me, the second time to beat me.

You pissed off the Spaniards at the Dakar Classic, what was their petition against you about?

The petition was about Škoda having no business there, but they didn’t know the exception from the first year of the Dakar Classic. Another problem was that the organizer provided me with oil in the marathon bivouac. And they were also upset that I was sniffed 10 meters in front of everyone to start the engine without compression by a stranger who just happened to be there. And the Spaniards and Italians took this as prohibited foreign, not permitted racing aid.

Photo: ASO/Fotop

There were also those who did not like Škoda. Specifically the Spanish and Italian crews.

And then the lies started that the car that pulled me over brought me the engine and I changed it myself and without tools at night. And another theory was that the car that was pulling me pulled me 20 km away in the night to the city where we changed the engine, and I discreetly returned at five in the morning with a new one.

In short, every 40 crews of Italians and Spaniards, 40 different stories. No one had any proof, moreover, the organizer is constantly under control of the cars, knows their exact location to the nearest meter and knows if the batteries have been disconnected. If something suspicious arises, even a short-term voltage drop on the monitoring devices, they immediately deal with it.

Do you think that the other Classic participants, that is, outside of the Czech ones, don’t like you? After all, no one helped you after falling in.

I don’t know, we were leading, so that’s probably why. If I was in 50th place, the Spaniards and Italians who started after us would probably help me. However, there is no point in crying about it. It’s a kind of life philosophy, how you approach it. I believe it will come back to them one day. That when they need help, no one will give them a helping hand.

You know that…

If you help another competitor in the Dakar or Dakar Classic, the time spent helping you is automatically deducted from the final time.

You released the movie “Dakar Changed Me”. Will you be preparing another film, perhaps about Škoda itself?

Probably not. It was very hard work, a great life experience, for which I am grateful. It was challenging in every way, but interesting. Behind the movie (free to watch HERE) are thousands of hours of hard work. I took the picture as a legacy for my children and future generations, because everything will be forgotten one day.

Photo: Ondřej Klymčiw

The film “KLYMCIW – Dakar changed me” shows Dakar from a completely different perspective.

Did the Škoda drive last time?

This one was definitely the last one. She was already written off before this Dakar Classic. So she deserves a rest, if only because of the way she put the Spaniards and Italians under pressure for eight days. That car deserves to be preserved as it is, conserved and put in a museum, for example.

Note ed.: So if a museum wants to display the car, you can contact Ondr.

You mentioned the auction gala in the last interview, can you tell us more about it?

There will be a gala evening, we are working on it. It will be dedicated to the Paraple Center, where the best photos by Marian Chytka will be auctioned (note editor: world-renowned Czech photographer) issued in a single copy and will be signed by the competitor in question. We will also try to get the Dakar racers to that auction. The event (closed) should take place in March this year, followed by an official press conference.

Photo: ASO

The first ŠKODA ŠKODA has indeed left its last Dakar, but what will happen next?

And you yourself will return to Dakar 2025?

The great unknown. However, my mother used to tell me: Never say never. This Škoda car is really over, but I don’t have an offer, an idea, or the money to continue. The taste would be good, but I still lack the three essential ingredients in the Dakar cup.

You were not alone in the Škoda to Dakar project, would you like to thank or highlight someone through us?

By all means. I would like to thank my mechanic Petr Dokonal, who has been with me since the 18th season of drag racing. This person built service trucks and made sure that all equipment, including racing, always pedaled.

Photo: ASO

The Skoda Dakar project is not only Ondřej Klymčiw, but many other people, including the fans themselves.

Furthermore, this project would not have been created without Honza Kočíš, who remodeled the Škoda. Thanks also go to my friend Terezka, my family, my sponsors and all the super fans.

I also owe a lot to Tomáš Marchal, Pep Brož and David Sklenář (video), who did their work without the right to a fee. Just to help a good cause and this whole thing could happen.

So it’s confirmed, the popular Škoda 130 LR, which went through the Dakar Classic in four different guises, is finally coming to an end. However, Ondra has the desire to continue racing, even building a second Škoda model, but will this really be the case and will we see this East Bohemian pilot at the start of the Dakar Classic 2025? We have to wait some more time for that.