EL SALVADOR, Chile – Team Ford Racing’s Lucio Alvarez and Ronnie Graue displayed the speed and strength of their Ranger when they claimed their second consecutive top 10 finish on the longest and toughest stage of the Dakar Rally today.
The Argentine duo finished eighth in the daunting 11th stage from Antofagasta to El Salvador in Chile. The 749 km stage included a marathon 605 km competitive section, the longest unbroken test in the rally.
After a 144 km liaison section, the day’s competition offered pretty much everything the Dakar Rally has in one single test. In temperatures that topped 30°C, dirt roads, mine tracks and dry river beds were an appetiser for 120 km of sand in the arid Atacama Desert, including the famous Copiapo dunes.
After finishing ninth yesterday, Alvarez made the most of an advantageous start position to power the Ranger through the early checkpoints in sixth.
He maintained a strong pace through the afternoon in the sand to come home strongly, despite stopping to change a rear left puncture just 40 km from the finish.
After spending more than six exhausting hours behind the wheel, Alvarez was 35 min 38 sec behind stage winners Orlando Terranova / Paulo Fiuza (MINI). The Ford pilot maintained the recovery from his time loss early in the 9 300km, 14-day event to climb from 28th to 22nd overall.
Such has been the demanding nature of this year’s event that of the 152 cars which departed the Rosario start in Argentina 12 days ago, only 49 started today.
Lucio Alvarez (308):
“The car worked well all day. The only occasion in which we lost time was though a puncture near the finish, which, in such a long and hard stage, is fantastic. Another top 10 finish is encouraging and that’s where we should be!