Ford Ranger duo of Xavier Pons and Daniel Mas Valdes look forward to second half of Dakar Rally out of Salta
SALTA (ARGENTINA): Spanish driver Xavier Pons and Chilean Daniel Mas Valdes are refreshed after the traditional rest day at the Dakar Rally and raring to start the second half of the world’s most demanding off-road event out of the city of Salta in northern Argentina on Monday morning.
The Ford Ranger duo endured mixed fortunes during the first seven special stages through Argentina and Bolivia last week and have different goals for the remaining six stages. With their car rebuilt and thoroughly checked over by team mechanics on Sunday, Mas Valdes and co-driver Juan Pablo Latrach currently lie 29th overall in their DMAS South Racing Ford Ranger and will be aiming to climb into the top 20 as the route passes through Argentina this week.
Pons and co-driver Ricardo Torlaschi are running a Ford Ranger under a joint venture between DMAS South Racing and Esponsorama and will need to climb back up the leader board for a second time after delays early in the rally in Argentina and a second set-back on the seventh special stage into Salta on Saturday.
"The truth is we started really well with a third place in the Prologue last Saturday,” said Pons in Salta. “This was almost unimaginable - a dream or something. Then, from there, we suffered. Every day we had small problems that cost us a little time. Yesterday, rather than small, it was a very big problem that delayed us a lot and we had to get towed to the bivouac.
“I have lived both sides of the Dakar, from the front starting the first stage with Carlos (Sainz) and Nasser (Al-Attiyah) and then from the back on Saturday. It was an adventure, a battle to survive.
"Today we had a day off to charge the batteries and get the car ready for the rest of the rally. We must get to the end. I will continue to keep learning to do better in the future. This is a very important challenge and everything was new – the car, my co-pilot and my team. We know we can do very well with the support of all our sponsors, but the Dakar is the hardest race in the world and we must learn from small mistakes suffered this year and not repeat them.
“The first day was much like a traditional rally, to which I am accustomed, so we were surprised and we did very well. But, then came the longer stages where the 'road book' is completely different. We lacked information, we crossed many rivers over the past two days and, in Bolivia, we had altitudes of 4,600 meters and headache.
“Now the dunes await us. It will be something completely new and we will have to face it in the best way. Very tough stages lie ahead with sand dunes, navigation - things I've never done. I guess if all goes well we can make up some time, but I'm not worried. Being with the front group on the first day has been very good for me to see the pace and the goal in the future is to be with them."
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 (Monday) is the first of the remaining six special stages across Argentina before the finish in the city of Rosario on Saturday. Drivers will tackle a special stage of 393km between Salta and the town of Belén in a day’s route of 766km.
The stage is split into two on the run south from Salta by a neutralisation road and skirts the Andes as it winds its way to a finish to the north of the overnight halt.