Thick mud costs Xavier Pons valuable time on Dakar special stage debut with Ford Ranger in Argentina
TERMAS DE RÍO HONDO (ARGENTINA): Ford Ranger driver Xavier ‘Xevi’ Pons overcame a minor delay in a particularly muddy and treacherous section of the shortened stage between Villa Carlos Paz and Termas de Rio Hondo to complete his first ever Dakar Rally special stage in northwest Argentina on Monday.
Pons, who is driving a Ford Ranger run under a joint venture between DMAS South Racing and Esponsorama, began well from third on the road behind Bernhard Ten Brinke and Carlos Sainz and was running safely in 18th position at the third route waypoint check before losing over 50 minutes on the subsequent muddy section of the special after 183km. Twice former Dakar winner Joan Roma and local driver Orlando Terranova also lost time in the mud at the same point in the stage.
After an 88km liaison section from the bivouac in Villa Carlos Paz, 110 cars began the stage at the originally planned location, although the onset of further rainfall dictated that ASO race officials shortened the competitive section to finish at PC4, after 387km.
Following his delay, the Spaniard and his Argentine navigator Ricardo Torlaschi quickly found their rhythm again and reached the finish of the special in a time of 5hrs 19min 26sec. Multiple FIA World Rally Champion Sébastien Loeb claimed the stage win on his Dakar debut and moved 2min 23sec in front of team-mate Stéphane Peterhansel in the overall standings.
“The stage was very wet and muddy and, in one particular place, we got stuck in the mud and it took us quite a while to get out and back on the track again” said Pons, who had slipped to an un official 74th overall at 16.10hrs (local time). “There’s still a very long way to go and we should be able to make up a lot of the lost time over the coming days.”
Chilean Daniel Mas Valdes is driving a second Ford Ranger run by DMAS South Racing and navigated by Juan Pablo Latrach. The Chilean held a virtual 32nd overall through the fourth waypoint, 31st at waypoint six and went on to finish the stage in 4hrs 21min 26sec to set the unofficial 35th quickest time and hold a similar position in the overall standings.
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 NWM, Rudy Project, OMP, TW Steel, Gold Nutrition, Michelin, MotoGP Argentina, Argentina Tourism and Ecomac.
Tomorrow (Tuesday), the route of the Dakar heads much further north from Termas de Río Hondo in the Santiago del Estero Province to San Salvador de Jujuy in the foothills of the Andes mountain range in the Province of Jujuy.
A special stage of 314km features in a provisional day’s route of 663km, as the Dakar caravan arrives in the city that is located at the junction of the Xibi Xibi and Rio Grande rivers, near the southern end of the Humahuaca canyon.