South Racing guides Alvarez and team Azimut's Coffaro to crucial finishes in gruelling Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge
ABU DHABI (UAE): South Racing overcame the rigours and demands of the western deserts of the United Arab Emirates to guide its two cars to the finish of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, round two of the FIA Cross-Country Rally World Cup, on Thursday.
Spanish driver Fernando Alvarez and his Argentinean navigator Luciano Gennoni overcame several delays during the five demanding selective sections to guide their Conarpesa-backed Toyota Hilux to the finish in 18th position.
The experienced Venezuelan duo of Nunzio Coffaro and Daniel Meneses steered the Team Azimut Venezuela Toyota - with additional backing from PDVSA, Toyota, Venezuela Tourism and the Ministerio Desportes – to the ceremonial finish in 17th.
“Overall it was a good event for the team, but two unfortunate incidents affected the results,” said South Racing’s managing director Scott Abraham. “Both our teams fought back well. The mechanics did a great job, both at the race and in the workshops, where they are also preparing the cars for the next round of the FIA World Cup in Qatar.”
The opening super special stage was held at the Al-Forsan International Sports Resort for the first time. The South Racing duo began cautiously and Coffaro and Alvarez slotted into 14th and 17th in the overall standings on a stage that was won, somewhat surprisingly, by Jakub Przygonski.
Coffaro was in useful form in the Team Azimut Toyota through the opening desert selective section of 278.04km that started at Razeen and finished 34km from the Qasr Al-Sarab bivouac. After starting out 14th on the road, the Venezuelan was the ninth driver to finish the stage in a time of 4hr 03min 23sec and slotted into 10th place. Alvarez finished 23rd.
Coffaro safely negotiated the second loop stage of 278.90km in 12th position to maintain his position inside the top 10 and Alvarez also produced a solid performance in the Conarpesa-backed Toyota Hilux to record a time of 4hr 53min 48sec and climb seven places to 15th in the overall standings.
The Team Azimut Toyota completed the third stage of 280.06km with the 12th quickest time and that permitted Coffaro to climb into ninth overall, but Alvarez had a collision with Kanat Shagirov after a sand dune and the impact damaged the Toyota’s steering rack. It was an unfortunate incident for the South Racing driver, as the stricken Russian had no Sentinel working and had not given any warning that he was stopped over the ridge of the dune. Alvarez incurred a penalty and slipped to 26th overall.
Coffaro began the penultimate stage of 257.87km well and was running strongly until he shed a wheel. The resultant time loss cost the Venezuelan his 10th position and he slipped to 19th. Alvarez recovered well from the previous day’s delay in his repaired car and clocked a time of 4hr 57min 50sec to move up the leader board into 22nd.
The duo cruised through the final 234.01km selective section to reach the finish with the 10th and 15th fastest times and confirmed useful finishes in 17th and 18th places.