Pons pushes into an impressive third position on Dakar Rally Prologue
Spanish driver Xavier ‘Xevi’ Pons was in impressive form to snatch the third fastest time through the opening 11km Prologue that determined the starting order for the first special stage of the 2016 Dakar Rally on a demanding track, north of the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires, on Saturday afternoon.
Driving a Ford Ranger, run under a joint venture between DMAS South Racing and Esponsorama, the Spaniard and his Argentine navigator Ricardo Torlaschi belied their lack of Dakar experience together to move into an excellent starting position for the first competitive special stage between Rosario and Vila Carlos Paz on Sunday. They recorded a time of 6min 12sec for the tricky competitive section.
The Prologue was followed by a short road liaison of 164km that took crews to the first overnight halt in the city of Rosario before the first of the 12 special stages starts on Sunday. Dutchman Bernhard Ten Brinke set the fastest time of 6min 08sec and that gave him a three-second advantage over double FIA World Rally Champion Carlos Sainz.
Three-hundred and forty-seven entrants from no less from 60 different countries - comprising 136 motorcycles, 45 quads, 111 cars and 55 trucks - had crossed the start podium in front of millions of fans in Buenos Aires earlier in the afternoon for an event that finishes back in Rosario on January 16th.
Chilean Daniel Mas Valdes drives the second Ford Ranger run by DMAS South Racing. He and navigator Juan Pablo Latrach completed the Prologue stage in an unofficial 45th place after the first 56 cars had crossed the finish line.
“This was a superb start for Xavier and Ricardo,” said South Racing’s team director Scott Abraham. “There is never anything to be gained by taking risks on a Prologue stage, but third has given the crew a superb starting position and untold confidence for the forthcoming days.”
Support for Pons’s Dakar challenge comes from Air Europa, Fundación Incorpora Deportistas Solidarios, Avintia Grupo, Power Electronics, KP Sport, Galfer, Jjuan Faura, King Regal, Las Rozas Cuidad Europea del Deporte 2016 and the Palladium Hotel Group.
South Racing also has support from Rudy Project, OMP, TW Steel, Gold Nutrition, Michelin, MotoGP Argentina, Argentina Tourism and Ecomac.
Tomorrow (Sunday) is the first of the proper Dakar specials and the day features a special stage of 258km and liaison sections of 404km between the bivouac in Rosario and the famous WRC rally town of Vila Carlos Paz in the Córdoba Province.
The special features many tracks and trails that are ideally suited to competitors with a WRC-type background and will provide Pons with a perfect special on which to settle into the pace and the competitiveness of the Dakar.