Xavier Pons back on track and guides his Ford Ranger safely into San Salvadore de Jujuy
SAN SALVADOR DE JUJUY (ARGENTINA): Ford Ranger driver Xavier ‘Xevi’ Pons was back in a competitive pace and pushing towards the top 10 on the shortened third stage of the 2016 Dakar Rally, between Termas de Río Hondo and San Salvador de Jujuy in northwest Argentina, on Tuesday.
Pons’s Ford Ranger is being run under a joint venture between DMAS South Racing and Esponsorama. The Spaniard had slipped to 81st overall at the start of the day’s action when all Monday’s tail-enders had completed the stage, penalties had been added in and the results had been clarified.
He and Argentine navigator Ricardo Torlaschi were granted a starting position of 16 for the 314km special, although ongoing inclement weather forced race officials to start the special after the first passage control at 112.91km and that reduced the competitive distance to just shy of 200km.
Pons began well and was running in a virtual 16th through the first of the official waypoint checkpoints and 17th through the next one. He reached the flying finish in a time of 2hr 19min 25sec and that was enough to clinch the 17th quickest time that pushed him back up the leader board to an unofficial 63rd overall.
“It was a good stage for us and the car ran without any problems at all,” said Pons. “Every kilometre is more experience. The next two days are important for the rally and Ricardo and I are looking forward it.”
French Dakar rookie Sébastien Loeb clocked his second successive stage win and leads the experienced South African Giniel de Villiers by 5min 03sec in the overall standings.
Chilean Daniel Mas Valdes is driving a second Ford Ranger run by DMAS South Racing and navigated by Juan Pablo Latrach. He began the day’s stage in 30th overall and 33rd on the road.
The Chilean was again quickly into a safe and consistent pace and climbed to 28th through the second major time checkpoint. He eventually reached the finish in 36th and slipped a place behind two-time Dakar winner Joan Roma and into 31st in the overall rankings.
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 (Wednesday), teams tackle a loop stage around the bivouac at San Salvador de Jujuy in northwest Argentina. In a total route of 629km, race officials have planned 429km against the clock.