Xavier Pons plays an overtaking game in his Ford Ranger and climbs seven more places on Uyuni loop stage in Bolivia
UYUNI (BOLIVIA): Xavier ‘Xevi’ Pons played a game of patience to perfection in his Ford Ranger and climbed a further seven places up the leader board to 33rd overall on the longest special stage of the 2016 Dakar Rally around the desolate Bolivian uplands on Friday.
After a short liaison of just four kilometres from the overnight bivouac in Uyuni, the Spaniard tackled the longest special stage of the entire Dakar from 47th on the road, following his steering issue on Thursday afternoon.
He started the stage well and was running 30th quickest through the first of 12 stage route waypoint checks and climbed to a virtual 28th through the mid-point. Run under a joint venture between DMAS South Racing and Esponsorama, the Ford Ranger was the model of consistency for the remainder of the stage and Pons and navigator Ricardo Torlaschi overtook several cars and crossed the finish line in 24th overall to move up from 40th to 33rd overall.
The 542km special looped around the Uyuni salt flats and took place on the plateau between 3,500 and 4,200 metres above sea level.
Chilean Daniel Mas Valdes and co-driver Juan Pablo Latrach held 27th overall at the start of the special in a second Ford Ranger and were rewarded with position 23 on the road amongst the surviving 99 cars. They lost a little time near the end of the special, but crossed the finish line in 41st and now hold 30th in the general classification.
“Last night the complete team went through the cars in preparation for the loop stage to Uyuni,” said DMAS South Racing’s team director Scott Abraham. “Xevi did a great job and fought back from 47th on the road this morning to finish the stage in 24th place.
“For tomorrow, the route will take us back into Argentina. It is an especially long day for the assistance crews, with a road section of 1,048km before we are able to rebuild the Ford Rangers in Salta ready for the second half of the race next week.”
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 (Saturday), teams tackle the third stage in Bolivia before crossing the frontier back into Argentina. A special stage of 353km is planned and a liaison of 440km to the city of Salta is included in the day’s timetable of 793km.
Competitors will then enjoy a much-needed rest day in Salta on Sunday. The city is located 1,152 metres above sea level in the Lerma Valley and the foothills of the Andes.