Ford Ranger gains ground on Dakar
After a day of rest in Iquique, the YPF Competicion Ford Ranger pairing of Federico Villagra and Andrés Memi were back in Dakar Rally action on the 450km special stage through the Atacama Desert and into Calama on Tuesday.
Villagra was seeded 23rd amongst the 76 surviving cars that began the 51km liaison to the start of the 450km stage. The special included around 45km of sandy tracks and dunes and a combination of stony and sandy terrain and tricky navigation to the finish. The 45-year-old Argentine was running in a virtual 25th position through 117km and reached the finish in 17th place in a time of 5hr 36min 06sec to continue his climb from 37th in the overall standings.
Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah began the eighth stage with a lead of 8min 27sec over Giniel de Villiers. The Qatari started the stage third on the road and recorded the second quickest time, taking advantage of a navigational error by his rival to extend his advantage over the South African to 23min 58sec heading into the final four stages. Outgoing Dakar champion Joan Roma claimed his first stage win of the campaign.
South Racing is looking after Villagra’s on-event logistics and day-to-day management under the directorship of the experienced Scott Abraham and his team. Villagra’s Ford Ranger was prepared and developed in South Africa by Neil Woolridge Motorsport.
In addition to Argentine energy company YPF, Villagra’s Dakar programme is being supported by suspension and OEM parts company Fric Rot, Brenson (Dealer Ford), Piamontesa and construction company Natania. OMP, Michelin, Rudy Project and Gold Nutrition have provided technical assistance.
Wednesday, January 14, the Ford Ranger and the rest of the team leave Calama and cross the Andes mountain range again and return to Argentina. In a day’s route of 860km, 359km will be competitive, starting with a passage across the Salinas Grandes at an altitude of 3,600 metres above sea level.
The final liaison into Salta makes use of the breathtaking Paso de L’Acay at an altitude of up to 4,970 metres and passes the highest point on Argentina’s National Route 40 at Abra del Acay (4,972 metres).