BULACIA AND BUSTOS PRESS ON TO SAN SALVADOR DE JUJUY TO MAINTAIN SOUTH RACING’S FORD RANGER CHALLENGE
Xavier Pons looks ahead to the future after being sidelined by crash
SAN SALVADOR DE JUJUY (ARGENTINA): South Racing’s hopes of finishing the 2017 Dakar Rally with a Ford Ranger now rest on the shoulders of the Bolivian driver Marco Bulacia and his Argentinean navigator Claudio Bustos after Xavier Pons’s accident on Tuesday.
The South American duo produced another solid performance in their South African-built car, despite their own fair share of problems, to complete the third 364km special stage between San Miguel de Tucumán and San Salvador de Jujuy in an unofficial 38th position to hold 31st in the overall standings. The duo had been 25th quickest through the opening section.
The 364km special began to the north-west of San Miguel de Tucumán and finished over a series of twisty tracks at altitudes consistently over 3,400 metres. The stage consisted of two parts of 240km and 124km and was divided by a high-altitude 148km neutralisation zone that reached nearly 5,000 metres in the shadow of the nearby Andes mountain range. Temperatures were also wide-ranging with the thermometer registering the low thirties at low altitude and single figures Centigrade higher up the mountain pass.
Bulacia’s latest generation South Racing Ford Ranger was prepared by Neil Woolridge Motorsport (NWM) with collaboration from South Racing. Bulacia has additional backing from YPFB, Vialco, Hard Rock Santa Cruz, BOA and Ende.
After his retirement from the race, Pons said: “Yesterday at kilometre 85 on a very long straight there was a stone or a rock, I am not clear and we hit it. The car went up into the air and, when it hit the ground, we catapulted towards a hill and overturned. We tried to repair it and continued for a few kilometres, but then broke the left front wheel and there was no way to repair it. We did not have the parts and it was impossible. We had to wait until very late and we arrived at 06.30hrs in the morning and were out of time and out of the race.
“It’s a shame because I think we could have made a good race. In fact, we were doing it and were second overall at that moment. The Dakar is a long race and it should serve as a lesson. We have to think positively and I think that I am increasingly competitive in rally-raid, so we have to look forward and think about next year. We were the only ones to be on a par with the Toyotas, Minis and Peugeots with an unofficial car. But we will return with more strength and a lesson learned.”
Tomorrow (Thursday), the route of the Dakar begins a sinuous climb through northern Argentina and across the frontier into the Potosi Department of Bolivia and on to the overnight halt at the small mining settlement of Tupiza. Race officials have arranged a special stage of 416km in a day’s route of 521km.