MIXED FORTUNES FOR FORD RANGER CREWS AS PONS SHEDS A WHEEL AND BULACIA HOLDS 23RD OVERALL
SAN MIGUEL DE TUCUMÁN (ARGENTINA): There were mixed fortunes for the two South Racing Ford Rangers on a punishing second stage of the 2017 Dakar Rally between Resistencia and San Miguel de Tucumán on Tuesday.
Spaniard Xavier ‘Xevi’ Pons and his Argentinean navigator Ruben Garcia began the day in second overall and in a similar position on the road behind first day stage winner Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah. But the DMAS Ford Ranger driver left the road shortly after the start of the special, damaged a rear wheel and plummeted down the rankings.
On the other hand, Bolivian driver Marco Bulacia and Argentinean co-driver Claudio Bustos produced a solid performance to reach the overnight halt in 23rd overall.
The day’s stage started near the village of Monte Quemado in the Province of Santiago Del Estero and followed a long liaison in punishing temperatures into the forties Centigrade across the flatlands of the Grand Chaco. There were three passage controls on the fast, featureless special before the stage finished to the east of the overnight halt and a short liaison took teams into the city of San Miguel de Tucumán.
All 77 cars began the special, but Pons left the road and tore a rear wheel off his Ford Ranger, the time delay scuppering his chance of remaining inside the top 10. The Spaniard was forced to repair the damage to his car in the stage and will undoubtedly plummet to the foot of the rankings as a result.
Bulacia stayed out of trouble to bring his South Racing Ford Ranger to the stage finish in a time of 2hr 40min 36sec. That put him 25th on the day’s leader board and the Bolivian headed into the night halt in 23rd in the overall standings.
“It’s obviously disappointing after the great pace that Xevi showed on the opening stage,” said Scott Abraham, managing director of South Racing. “Xevi and Ruben are working to get the car out of the stage. Fingers crossed they will be able to restart tomorrow and continue the challenge of the Dakar.
“Marco had another solid stage. It is still very early in the race and we need to settle into our rhythm and see how things play out.”
Both of the latest generation Ford Rangers have been prepared in collaboration with DMAS Competicion in Chile and Neil Woolridge Motorsport (NWM). Pons has support from
Esponsorama, Cirsa and Power Electronics and Bulacia has additional backing from YPFB, Vialco, Hard Rock Santa Cruz, BOA and Ende.
Tomorrow (Wednesday) the route heads out of San Miguel de Tucumán and begins a steady climb into the foothills of the Andes as it nears the next bivouac, near the town of San Salvador de Jujuy.
Crews will tackle a special stage of 364km in a total day’s route of 780km, although this will be the last of the low altitude stages before the gradual ascent on to the Bolivian Altoplano over the coming days.