– Two Ford Rangers for Spaniard Xavier Pons and Bolivian Marco Bulacia
– Bolivian Gutierrez and Argentina’s Amor drive two South Racing Toyotas
Weeks of meticulous planning, testing and preparations will be put to the test when South Racing takes the start of the gruelling 2017 Dakar Rally with a pair of Ford Rangers and two Toyota Hiluxes in the Paraguayan capital of Asunción on New Year’s Day (tomorrow).
Ahead of the four cars lies a daunting route that will pass through Paraguay, Argentina and Bolivia, before returning to Argentina for the ceremonial finish in Buenos Aires on January 14th.
South Racing will run a DMAS Ford Ranger for Spaniard Xavier Pons and his Argentinean navigator Ruben Garcia and a second Ford Ranger for Bolivian driver Marco Bulacia and his Argentinean co-driver Claudio Bustos.
The team is also running a pair of Toyota Hiluxes for the 39-year-old Bolivian Alberto Rodrigo Gutierrez Fleig and Spanish navigator Joan Rubi and the Argentinean father and son duo of Eduardo Osvaldo Amor and Nicolas Amor.
South Racing is once again at the start of the Dakar with four cars and the team will also be providing logistical and technical support for a further three customer teams, said South Racing’s managing director Scott Abraham.
2016 was a strong year for the team, consolidating its position as one of the premier operations in cross-country, and 2017 starts with a bang with the Dakar, which has a completely new format and will be sure to challenge all the crews. We are fielding two Fords and two Toyotas. Everyone at South Racing is focused on the goal of bringing all the cars across the finish line in Buenos Aires on January 14th.
Former WRC star Xavier Pons heads the team for the second successive season and teams up with Garcia for the second time in a DMAS South Racing Ford Ranger, after the pair excelled to finish second overall on their maiden event together in Portugal last October.
Bulacia finished 21st with South Racing last year and moves up to drive the second of the Ford Rangers with his new navigator and additional support from YPFB, Vialco, Hard Rock Santa Cruz and Ende. The Bolivian admits that the goal for this year is to finish in the top 12 or 13 in the overall classification.
South Racing features brand new crew line-ups in the two Toyota Hiluxes. Alberto Rodrigo Gutierrez, 39, finished 44th in the Dakar last year as a privateer and has competed twice before in Portugal, in addition to taking part in the Bolivian Cross-Country Championship. Rubi, his 48-year-old Spanish co-driver, retired from the Dakar on four previous occasions as a privateer and then finished the event for the first time with Gutierrez in 2016.
The Dakar makes me very happy, enthused Gutierrez. Last year we led the T3 category to Salta and then had problems in the dunes. We had a good test with the Toyota in Portugal for this one and I cannot wait to race the Dakar and compete in my own country. That is special. President Evo Morales is supporting the race a lot. I hope that there will be Dakar in Bolivia for several years.
Rubi added: I visited South Racing to get to know the mechanics in depth. I think we can be among the top 25. The car is very strong and Rodrigo is a very good driver.
Fifty-four-year old Eduardo Amor was born in Buenos Aires and registered six previous Dakar retirements as a privateer before finishing the event for the first time with José Luis Di Palma in 66th position in 2016. He teams up with his 19-year-old son Nicolas for the first time to try and fulfil a family dream of finishing the event together in a South Racing Toyota Hilux.
The satisfaction of arriving at the finish last year after many frustrations was incredible, said Amor Senior. Now we have the professionalism of South Racing and the Toyota Hilux. It will be a new challenge and we are prepared for it.
Running the Dakar with my father will be a great experience, said Nicolas. For three years, I have been doing intense physical work in the gym. We have also raced in the Argentine cross-country series, competing in Mina Clavero and La Cumbre with good results. We will see how we cope with the altitude in Bolivia and the high temperatures in the north of Argentina.
Further support for South Racing comes from Liqui Moly, Rudy Project, Skechers, OMP Racing, Argentina Tourism and MotoGP Argentina.
The route of the 2017 Dakar has been modified. There are no Chilean stages and no more visits to the Atacama Desert, but new challenges await, including a special stage of 620km and a gruelling Marathon stage in Bolivia.
The Paraguayan capital of Asuncion plays host to the race for the first time. Scrutineering and administration checks were completed today, with the official ceremonial start taking centre stage tomorrow (New Year’s Day).
The competitive action gets underway with a brand new stage between Asuncion and Resistencia, across the vast Grand Chaco, on January 2 before the route passes into Argentina and the city of San Miguel de Tucuman on January 3.
Overnight halts follow in the Andes foothills at San Salvador de Jujuy and in the southern Bolivian mining town of Tupiza before the route heads on to Oruro on January 6 and La Paz on January 7.
The Bolivian city hosts the traditional rest day on January 8, where competitors, VIPs and rally visitors will face altitudes of around 3,640 metres above sea level.
From La Paz, the route heads across the vast salt flat of Uyuni before crossing into Argentina and the city of Salta on January 10.
Night halts in Chilecito, San Juan and Rio Cuarto follow on January 11, 12 and 13, before the final stages trek across central Argentina to the ceremonial finish in Buenos Aires on January 14.
South Racing 2017 Dakar Rally team line-up
311. Xavier Pons (ESP)/Ruben Garcia (ESP) – DMAS South Racing Ford Ranger
324. Marco Bulacia (BOL)/Claudio Bustos (ARG) – South Racing Ford Ranger
338. Rodrigo Gutierrez (BOL)/Joan Rubi (ESP) – South Racing Toyota Hilux
343. Eduardo Amor (ARG)/Nicolas Amor (ARG) – South Racing Toyota Hilux