Team Ford Racing ends tough first week on Dakar with competitive results
Stage 6 – 10 January 2014
Tucumán to Salta, Argentina
Liaison: 270 km, Neutralisation: 164 km, Special Stage: 260 km, Total: 694 km
SALTA, ARGENTINA, 10 January 2014 – Team Ford Racing has ended its challenging first week of the 2014 Dakar Rally with a solid performance over the past couple of days, including a clean run through the sixth stage today from Tucumán to Salta – the northern-most stop in Argentina for this year’s event.
The local crew of Lucio Alvarez and Ronnie Graue (308) finished the 260 km competitive stage in 14th place, 18 min 08 sec behind stage winners Stephane Peterhansel/Jean Paul Cottret (MINI), despite having to drive the last 8 km with a puncture. They have climbed to 45th overall.
The special stage was split into two parts, comprising a 156 km first section just outside Tucumán, followed by a 164 km neutralisation. The remaining 104 km special concluded approximately 50 km from Salta where the bivouac is based for the next two days.
With temperatures once again soaring into the mid-40 degree Celsius range, it was another hard day on cars and drivers alike. But the team enjoyed the fast and flowing roads that were more typical of a rally stage, and allowed them to extend the 5,0-litre V8-powered Ford Ranger to the full.
Dust continues to plague the duo, making overtaking opportunities extremely difficult. But they are revelling in the competitive pace being achieved.
The team will have the benefit of the rest day tomorrow to almost completely overhaul the race car, which has thus far covered half of the total rally distance of approximately 9 300 km – including over 2 500 km of flat-out special stage action.
This will prepare the team for the long and hard final week that resumes on Sunday with 3 000 km of special stage and a total of some 4 700 km still to go, virtually all of it in Chile.
From the bivouac in Salta, Team Ford Racing would like to express its condolences to the family and team of Belgian motorcycle competitor Eric Palante (122). The 50-year-old rider was competing in his 11th Dakar, and died on stage 5 from Chilecito to Tucuman.
Lucio Alvarez (308):
“We enjoyed a good day although we had lots of dust from the trucks ahead of us, particularly on the first part of the stage, which made overtaking very difficult.
“Fortunately the road was clear for most of the second section and we were able to go much faster. We started 40th this morning and ended the day 14th, despite doing the last 8 km of the stage with a puncture, so this is very good for us.
“The car was very easy to drive on the fast rally stages. The handling was great in the corners and the engine performed very well.”
Neil Woolridge (Team Manager – Neil Woolridge Motorsport / Ford Racing):
“We breathed a sigh of relief when the Ranger arrived in Salta today in one piece, as it has been an exceptionally tough week for the team.
“Over the last three days the car has performed very well, and although we’ve had some minor niggles, overall we have been close to the pace of the front-runners, and that shows it has great potential.
“Lucio and Ronnie had a faultless run today and that is very encouraging, so we will use that positive momentum to prepare the car for week two of Dakar.”
On Saturday 11 January all of the Dakar action will be concentrated within the confines of the bivouac in Salta. The remaining teams will use the rest day to strip down, repair and rebuild their cars for the Dakar’s tough week two.
The racing resumes on Sunday 12 January with a 533 km loop special stage that starts and finishes in Salta before making the crossing into Chile the next day. While the mechanics and engineers will be busy on the cars, the drivers and co-drivers will have the chance to rest and receive attention from the physios.