Dakar Stage 7 Ford: Pons and Mas Valdes exhausted!

Xavier Pons © DR

– Thunderstorms and high water levels add to stage difficulty for crews

There were mixed fortunes for Ford Ranger drivers on the Dakar Rally after the tiring and perilous seventh timed test between Bolivia and Argentina on Saturday.

Chilean driver Daniel Mas Valdes will take a much-needed break from competitive action after maintaining his position of 30th overall, but Spaniard Xavier Pons hit radiator trouble and was badly delayed.

Mas Valdes and co-driver Juan Pablo Latrach began the gruelling day in 30th overall and 43rd on the road. They completed section one of the special in 31st place and survived the adverse weather conditions across the border in Argentina to reach the stage finish in 42nd and enter the city of Salta and the event’s traditional rest day in 30th overall.

Spanish team-mate Pons and co-driver Ricardo Torlaschi held 33rd overall in their Ford Ranger at the start of the day and were permitted into the special running 26th on the road after a short liaison of 33km from the overnight halt in Uyuni. The first 230km of competition took place on the Bolivian side of the border and then teams crossed the frontier on a neutralisation section and resumed the competitive action with the remaining 106km.

But Pons, who drives a Ford run through a joint venture between DMAS South Racing and Esponsorama, sustained a damaged radiator and continued at a slow pace through the stage, which was suspended for a time after the neutralisation zone because of rising water levels in river crossings in Argentina. The technical issue meant that he was late into the bivouac in Salta at the end of the first half of the Dakar Rally.

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 (Sunday), crews take a much-needed rest from the competitive action at the bivouac in Salta.

But it’s far from a rest day for the remainder of the DMAS South Racing team, as mechanics and engineers set to work to rebuild the Ford Rangers in time for the second punishing week of the Dakar in Argentina and the return to the city of Rosario for the ceremonial finish on January 16th.

Neil Perkins,