Chilean duo of Garces and Latrach guide DMAS South Racing’s Ford Ranger to superb eighth place in Qatar

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The Chilean pairing of Hernan Garces and Juan Pablo Latrach belied the fact that it was their first ever foray into Middle Eastern cross-country rallying to bring their DMAS South Racing Ford Ranger to the finish of Qatar’s demanding Sealine Cross-Country Rally in a superb eighth position in the overall classification.

Notorious for offering some of the most varied and testing terrain on the planet and renowned for making the co-drivers work hard to overcome tricky navigation in a complex route road book, the event shows no mercy and Garces and Latrach handled the challenges perfectly.

Their Ford Ranger never missed a beat and, save for a delay when they got stuck in some of the event’s tricky sand dunes, the Chilean duo were in contention for the top 10 from the outset.

“Hernan got stronger as the rally went on. We must remember that the last race he took part in was in September last year,” said South Racing’s managing director Scott Abraham. “It was a good race for the car. We had no mechanical problems along the way and Juan Pablo did a great job with the navigation.

“From our side, I want to thank the team, both at the race and in the workshop. It was a long, hard slog to prepare the car and they did a wonderful job. That showed in the result.”

Garces said: “I really enjoyed the rally. It was very technical and we were always on the pace. I didn’t get bored in the car. We were busy all the time.”

Garces made a positive start to his maiden Qatar challenge and, despite a couple of punctures (one of which took five minutes to change), he reached the first stage finish classified in 12th position, after running inside the top 10 and on a similar pace to former Dakar winner Jutta Kleinschmidt for long periods.

He was also on good form for the second selective section of 345.89km, which started at Al-Kharrara and looped round the south of Qatar to a finish near the old bivouac at Sealine. The Chilean recorded the 11th quickest time and climbed to an excellent ninth in the overall rankings.

The longest stage of the event, at 355.49km, provided a stern challenge for all the competitors. While many of his rivals suffered mechanical issues or lost time in the tricky dunes and with navigational mistakes, the Chilean maintained his composure to clock the 10th quickest time of just over four and a half hours, despite getting stuck on one occasion at the very last dune on the route.

The performance was sufficient for the DMAS South Racing Ford Ranger to be still sitting in ninth overall at the start of the fourth stage. “I hesitated a little at the dune and I guess that did the damage and we lost the time getting out,” said the Chilean.

Garces stayed clear of the pitfalls of the fourth selective section of 354.75km to record the eighth quickest time and strengthen his vice-like grip on ninth place heading into the final special of 350.94km.

A good run through the final stage earned the Chilean the seventh fastest time and misfortune for a rival lifted the Ford Ranger into seventh place.