Dakar Stage 1: Superb start for Pons and Balucia !

Xavier Pons © DR

– Xavier Pons peddles DMAS South Racing Ford Ranger to second fastest time

The two South Racing Ford Rangers made a superb start to their challenge for honours in the 2017 Dakar Rally on the short 39km special stage, held to the east of Asunción in Paraguay, on Monday.

Spaniard Xavier Pons and his Argentinean navigator Ruben Garcia slotted into a stunning second overall in their DMAS South Racing Ford Ranger and Bolivian driver Marco Bulacia and Argentinean co-driver Claudio Bustos were classified in 18th overall.


Both of the latest generation Ford Rangers that have been prepared in collaboration with DMAS Competicion in Chile and Neil Woolridge Motorsport (NWM) never missed a beat on the short stage. With support from Esponsorama, Cirsa and Power Electronics, Pons’s Ford finished 24 seconds behind stage winner Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah. The Spaniard had been third quickest through the first passage control behind Al-Attiyah and Joan Roma.

“I am very happy and the results has been extremely positive,” said Pons. “We came out strong from the start, because we knew it was a rally stage that we could cope with very well. We have made the most of it and the car has worked well. We are aware that to get to the end we will have to lower the pace a bit. But, starting with a second place is like a victory and a prize for all the efforts of the last months.

Bulacia has additional backing from YPFB, Vialco, Hard Rock Santa Cruz, BOA and Ende and he carded a time of 28min 26sec to confirm his position inside the top 20.

Paraguay became the 29th country in Dakar history to host a special stage, although the route of the event crossed the border into Argentina soon afterwards and crews made their way along a liaison section of over 400km to the first overnight halt in Resistencia via Formosa on Monday afternoon.

The previous evening, the Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes had flagged 318 entrants, including 87 cars, away from the ceremonial start in front of thousands of spectators.

“This was a great start to the race fore the entire team and for Xevi to get the second fastest time was a superb performance,” said Scott Abraham, managing director of South Racing. “It also gives him a good road position for tomorrow. Marco also had a solid run to 18th, although he got stuck in the dust at the end of the stage. But the most important thing is both cars are out of the stage without any problems at all and we are ready to push hard into Argentina.”

Tomorrow (Tuesday) the route heads out of Resistencia and across the vast grasslands of northern Argentina to the city of San Miguel de Tucumán. The Grand Chaco region has hosted the Trans Chaco Rally in the past and should provide the first real test to competitors in this year’s event.

2017 Dakar Rally – positions after SS1:
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Toyota Hilux, 25min 41sec
2. Xavier Pons (ESP)/Ruben Garcia (ARG) DMAS South Racing Ford Ranger, 26min 05sec
3. Joan Roma (ESP)/Alex Haro (ESP) Toyota Hilux Overdrive, 26min 10sec
4. Carlos Sainz (ESP)/Lucas Cruz (ESP) Peugeot 3008 DKR, 26min 14sec
5. Giniel de Villiers (ZAF)/Dirk von Zitzewitz (DEU) Toyota Gazoo Hilux, 26min 22sec
6. Sébastien Loeb (FRA)/Daniel Elena (FRA) Peugeot 3008 DKR, 26min 36sec…
18. Marco Bulacia (BOL)/Claudio Bustos (ARG) South Racing Ford Ranger, 28min 26sec…

Neil Perkins,