– Six special stages remain across Argentina this week to the finish in Rosario
Bolivian driver Marco Bulacia and Czech-born Australian counterpart Peter Jerie have produced a pair of solid performances for South Racing during the first week of this year’s punishing Dakar Rally.
The Toyota Hilux drivers have overcome some of the worst weather conditions ever experienced on the event in South America to hold 26th and 33rd overall at the event’s traditional rest day at Salta in northern Argentina.
Heavy rain, flash flooding and thunderstorms have forced race officials to cancel, shorten and modify several of the first week’s special stages through Argentina and Bolivia, but Bulacia and Jerie have persevered and stayed clear of trouble to deliver consistent stage performances.
Bulacia and his Argentinean navigator Ruben Garcia opened their campaign with the 16th quickest time on the Prologue stage, north of Buenos Aires, last Saturday and held 39th on the first special stage. They climbed to 38th overall after the next timed test and moved up to 36th after the loop stage around San Salvador de Jujuy.
After the border crossing into his native Bolivia, Bulacia settled into an impressive pace and he reached Uyuni in 32nd overall and climbed another six places over the second and third timed sections in Bolivia to hold 26th place heading into the second week.
Jerie and fellow Australian navigator Dale Moscatt were 48th on the Prologue and 34th through the first of the Argentinean stages, before slipping back to 41st in Jujuy. Jerie stopped on the first of the Bolivian stages to assist fellow DMAS South Racing driver Xavier Pons, although he finished the special in 36th overall. He then improved a further three places into the Salta rest day.
Founded in 2013, South Racing is also heavily involved in running a pair of Ford Rangers in this year’s rally for the Spanish former WRC star Xavier Pons and Chilean driver Daniel Mas Valdes in a joint venture project with DMAS and Esponsorama. Both the Fords are also running strongly and the drivers are looking forward to the second half of the event.
The first of the remaining six special stages gets underway from Salta on Monday morning and takes crews to the town of Belén, via 393km of competition and liaison sections totalling 373km.
A short loop stage around Belén follows on Tuesday and then the route begins to head across Argentina – via La Rioja and San Juan – and returns to the town of Villa Carlos Paz. A short final stage on Saturday takes the survivors to the city of Rosario, where the ceremonial finish will take place in the afternoon.