IQUIQUE, Chile – Lucio Alvarez and Ronnie Graue were on course for a top 10 finish in today’s ninth stage of the Dakar Rally until the legendary dunes of the Atacama Desert left their hopes buried in deep sand.
The Team Ford Racing duo showed strong pace on their favoured surface in their Ford Ranger until they became stranded in sand as they searched for a navigation waypoint just 20 km from the end of the 422 km special stage from Calama to Iquique in Chile.
Forty minutes went by as the Argentines shovelled sand and dug dunes furiously in an effort to release the Ranger from its sticking point. The pair worked themselves to the point of exhaustion, so much so that Graue fainted just as the Ranger finally popped out.
He quickly recovered and the pair completed the test, delighting the large crowds gathered at the finish to watch the famous 3 km descent down the final dune into the Iquique bivouac.
The time loss dropped the duo to 22nd, 1 hr 23 min behind stage winners Stéphane Peterhansel / Jean-Paul Cottret (MINI). Despite the problems, Alvarez climbed to 33rd in the overall standings.
Alvarez, regarded as a master of the sand, was just outside the top 10 through all the mid-stage time checks, despite easing his pace after the midpoint when he was concerned that a front driveshaft had become noisy.
Lucio Alvarez (308):
“The beginning of the stage went well and I was happy with our pace knowing the sand was still to come. After 230 km, before we reached the dunes, I heard a noise from the front of the car, which I thought might be the driveshaft.