Spaniard Xavier Pons and Chilean Daniel Mas Valdes are closing in on excellent finishes in the gruelling Dakar Rally. Both Ford Ranger drivers emerged unscathed from the longest day of the entire event - a 931km passage across northern Argentina between San Juan and Villa Carlos Paz - on Friday.
Classified in 31st and 38th of the surviving 69 cars at the start of a liaison route of 450km and a demanding special stage of 481km, the duo were granted favourable starting positions of 26th and 31st on the road when they left San Juan.
Despite continuing high temperatures, poor visibility in the dust, rain and mud on sections of the stage and the threat of errant stones, trees and potholes, Pons and co-driver Ricardo Torlaschi ran well through the stage and were classified 21st after PC4, although they had been as high as 17th.
In a Ford Ranger run through a joint venture between DMAS South Racing and Esponsorama, they reached the finish with the 21st quickest time and head into the final day lying in an unofficial 31st overall.
“It has become very hot and the fesh-fesh has complicated matters over the last few days,”
“But I think we have done well in the latter stages and now the goal is to arrive tomorrow to the final goal of the Dakar. I had so much fun riding in the sand and was able to learn a lot about navigation. This is something that was completely new to me.”
Mas Valdes and co-driver Juan Pablo Latrach finished the special in an unofficial 24th in their DMAS South Racing car.
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) is the final stage of the Dakar Rally and precedes the ceremonial finish in the city of Rosario, situated in the Province of Santa Fe on the western shore of the Paraná River.
The last of the special stages is only 180km long, but is sure to offer a tricky mix of twisty gravel tracks, sandy trails and rocky sections to catch out the unwary. The special starts to the south of Córdoba and finishes at the agricultural town of Rio Cuarto, before a liaison takes the survivors on to the finish podium and celebrations in Rosario.