The king of racing – Ramunas Capkauskas!
40 years of non-stop racing in motorsports, karting, formula, circuit racing with touring cars, endurance racing, rally. The resume of motorsport is very rich and with a lot of success – Ramunas is a 35 times champion of various disciplines in the Baltic, Lithuanian, Latvian or Estonian championships. Ramunas is a local motorsports legend, with some historical moments in recent BaTCC history – he is the first ever TCR sprint race winner, also the winner of first ever BMW 325 CUP race in Kaunas. A long-time friend of BaTCC, raced in the series non-stop for 10 years. Ramunas is also the organizer “Rally Elektrenai” in Lithuania for many years, team owner, owner of several businesses.
But when did this story start?
It all started 1985 when I was 7 years old with an old karting with Pioneer 50 engine just practices. 1986 was my first season. After 5 years and winning Lithuanian championship three times in this class, I started to race in Junior class. I raced also in USSR championship, once in Moldova and the second time in Smiltene, Latvia. It was the time of the freedom fights in Lithuania, but we still raced in the championship, there was a sight in the race opening, where all 15 USSR republics are present, but I am standing with national flag of Lithuania. The USSR finals were massive, we had to travel to training camp 2 weeks prior before event for testing. And race events normally were with a team race on Saturday and Sunday individually, and only two racing classes – the Pioneer and Junior. Bigger classes had different event. I raced karting until 1995, 10 years straight. In this 1995 I raced in karting, and I made debut in Formula class, with the classic Formula Estonia-21. 2006 was my last season in Formula Baltic class, which I managed to win two times. And then, in 2007 my career continued as a rally driver with Mitsubishi Evo. Together with Tomas Sipkauskas. We again drove together for 10 years in rally. We won overall classification in Lithuanian rally championship in 2009 and once more after that. But my debut in rally was in 1995, when I was a co-pilot for Dovilas Čiutele in VW Golf I car. And we did 7 seasons together in rally. In 1998-1999 I did two seasons in the Lithuanian BMW cup two seasons. In 2000 there was the first Palanga 1000 km race. I have raced in every single one of them, this season will be the 25th!
Why did you stop racing with Formula?
Because the Formula as class ceased to exist. In 1996 when I started to race, that was the first season when vehicles and car parts from the Western world started to come to Baltics, before that circuit racing basically was non-existent. In karting the transition was faster, with slick tires and chassis. And there were more racers in general, so karting managed to survive the early 1990s. But with Formula, there was a F4 class in Finland and an F3, where only few cars raced at that time but in F4 around 25 cars. So, I had a chance to buy a Formula, I had an option to buy the latest Formula Estonia model, went to that factory, but changed my mind because there must be alternatives. Went to Finland and checked the cars, class, regulations, setups etc. And we bought the car – Reynard 883. In my first season I think I did 5 races in Finland, not full season. Then I was given a lot of money, and the choice was – one season in Europe with F3 or three seasons with F4 in the Baltics which at that time had decent series and the competitive level went up for the next several years. I decided to stay in the Baltics, and I believe that was the right decision, as in Europe I would have burned all the money in one season in unknown tracks and left without options in future. It was very competitive and interesting series until it was decided to allow modifications in the 1.6l engines, the costs went up significantly. I tried many options to get the power up, but it was not possible to match the tuned engines from the factory, and many failed who didn’t have a lot of money to invest. So, the racing on track died out. I won the series in 2002 and 2003 the Baltic Championship. 2004 and 2005, were tough, and 2006 was my last season. The Formulas in Finland also changed from F4 to F3, and it wasn’t the same number of drivers and competitiveness anymore.
But this is part of the racing, when there is competition for top places the costs go up, the same was in Formula, then the TCR sprints, now with BMW 325 cup. When you are fighting for every tenth on the racetrack, you need to maintain the car more, buy and use new tires more often, have some additional trainings etc. I have a TCR car, and just to have fun in the races it’s not that expensive, one set of slick tires is completely enough for a full weekend in a sprint race. I changed the chassis before the 1000 km just to change it, the previous had 22 000 km mileage, and it would break at some time, but when? I don’t even want to compare it with my previous war horse, the BMW M3 E36, it had to be serviced all the time after the races, and I had to bring a lot more mechanics. Now, with Cupra it’s much easier in races and between then. For everyone who is in thinking to buy something, I suggest TCR cars. Fun and fast to drive and easy to maintain. But when it becomes professional and fight for every second, it becomes much more expensive.
You are in the renting business for a while. How does it work and how do you see it now?
The competition in renting market now is quite tough. Maybe even a small crisis is seen in the renting market, due to many factors – look how many beautiful, fast and expensive cars we have in the Baltics, especially in Lithuania, but the pool of potential racers is not that big for so many cars, also the Russian war in Ukraine impacts economy, business and also the driver market in Europe, there are much less Russian and Belorussian drivers in Europe, so drivers from Baltics are more targeted from European teams. In the racing car business, there are many small details that matter especially in endurance racing, for example one driver wants to pair only with fast drivers, someone wants to be fastest in the team. Then the details how the payments are done and what is included. Also, you must provide all necessary equipment for the car to run 100% and it’s a lot if investing. Now, I am also selling my Porsche GT3 CUP 992 car, the champion car from North European Zone Porsche series won by Valters Zviedris. It’s a fantastic racing car, pure perfection, very little can be done to make the car faster, only slight set-up changes as it’s perfect from the beginning. The car and series where driver is the main part. The car must drive and not be stationed in the garage.
The Baltic States is a very good starting point for everyone who wants something more, go to Europe. Here in a well-known environment, you can get kilometres to adjust to the car, get better and feel comfortable in the car with less budget. To prepare yourself for European tracks and to understand, is it for you or not? Such is life now, that if you have the money and the ambitions, you can go to Europe and race there. Racers won’t race in Baltics for many years with expensive factory GT cars, but the BaTCC series is a great way to start your motorsport career with race cars.
You have been around for more than 25 years in circuit racing, how can you compare those times?
Completely different times. Look at the paddock now! Full paddock, even not enough space for everyone in some Parnu or Riga races, many cars, many beautiful cars with racers from all three Baltic countries, Finland, and others. Back then was a bit different situation, people were a bit more dedicated, lived to race and much work was done in garage. Now motorsports in any discipline is more open to everyone and it’s a good thing that it is growing and is accessible. And I also look optimistically for the new season!
What is your dream now?
I have won my races and had my experiences with many different cars, fastest possible in the region as well, rally, karting, formula, touring cars and GTs. Maybe to drive the new Nemuno Ziedas ring! I have not skipped a single season in my career. Racing is fun for me now, to enjoy the process from start to finish. I want to be a part of the motorsports community and to involve more people in the sport, both racers and everyone around. And so, I delegate my duties as the team principal more and more to my son Titas, logistics, administrative checks, communication with pilot during the race, team services etc. He did all the job in 2023 NEZ Porsche races, I connected when the money and payment matters started.
Any thoughts about Poznan track?
I have been racing there once with the Fastlap series, more than five years ago. The track itself, the configuration is fantastic and I really enjoyed. Fast track, I remember the max speed was much faster then in Riga or Kaunas with my BMW M3. Old fashioned, but with atmosphere. It’s a long way to go there, but as there are highways all the way to Poznan, timewise it’s not that hard.
Who is Ramunas outside racetracks?
I have a car service here in Kaunas – “Capkauskos Autocentras”, a modern service with steady base of clients, where I also prepare and service my race cars. I have also specialized car service that prioritizes in car windows and a small firm that produces specialized, custom-made stainless steel parts, profiles, and solutions for various businesses in various fields. I also like to ride enduro motorcycles in amateur level, not in competition but just for fun! And of course, a husband and a father!