TUCUMÁN, ARGENTINA – It was an encouraging turn of fortunes for Team Ford Racing today when Argentines Lucio Alvarez and Ronnie Graue (308) powered their Ranger to the seventh fastest time on stage five of the Dakar Rally, from Chilecito to Tucumán.
The organisers cut the second part of the special stage short by approximately 100 km due to safety concerns as temperatures soared to over 47 degrees in the Sierra Hombre Muerto mountains.
Nevertheless Alvarez and Graue continued the solid run from yesterday and notched up an impressive result over the undulating and sandy route which was shortened to 317 km – despite losing approximately 20 minutes searching for an errant waypoint, along with many of the other front-runners.
They were also hampered by a rear brake problem that presented itself 20 km into the stage, along with the thick dust that has become a common theme on this year’s event.
Accordingly their time of 4 hr 52 m 46 sec put them in the top echelon in 7th place for the day, a mere 1 min 50 sec behind five-time Dakar winner in the car category, Stephane Peterhansel and co-driver Jean Paul Cottret (MINI).
The stage was won by overall race leaders Nani Roma/Michel Perin (MINI) with a time of 4 hr 27 min 01 sec.
Overall the Ford crew has climbed to 45th in the standings.
Lucio Alvarez (308):
“Today’s stage was very long and difficult. There was a lot of navigation with plenty of soft, sandy tracks and dunes, and we drove without rear brakes for most of the stage.
“We had a navigation problem and couldn’t find one of the waypoints, and spent about 20 min searching for it. But when we finished the stage we saw that many of the teams had the same problem so there must have been an issue with the road book.
“The special stage was very hard on the car today, as there were a lot of big jumps with hard landings. It was also extremely hot and I drank about three litres of water in the first part of the stage alone.
“But it was a good day overall, and we are happy that we’re posting competitive times.”
Scott Abraham (Team Manager – South Racing):
“Today went well, but it was a difficult stage for the crews and vehicles. The Ranger held up, and although we had a few small issues the big problem for the day was navigation.
“There was one waypoint at 162 km which threw the whole rally off, but I think the proof is in the pudding as Lucio and Ronnie were only a couple of minutes behind the MINIs of Peterhansel/Cottret and Nasser Al-Attiyah/Lucas Cruz.
“We’re building on the momentum, and hopefully we can keep this up until the rest day on Saturday in Salta. There we will give the car a thorough rebuild, and we’re looking forward to a better second half of the rally.”
The Dakar Rally continues heading north tomorrow on stage six, from Tucumán to Salta. The crews will drive along part of the renowned Ruta 40, and continue on into the heart of one of Argentina’s most beautiful landscapes.
The primary objective for all of the competitors will be make it through the two-part 260 km special stage and cover the full 694 km route to Salta for a hard-earned rest day on Saturday.