Dakar: Ford Ranger and Pons in stage 2

Xevi Pons © DR

A high-speed crash near the start of the second special stage between Resistencia and San Miguel de Tucumán has ended Xavier Pons’s chance of challenging for honours in the 2017 Dakar Rally.

The DMAS South Racing Ford Ranger driver and his Argentinean navigator Ruben Garcia had set the second fastest time in the opening special stage in Paraguay on Monday and were pushing hard when the Spaniard launched the Ford into a series of high-speed rolls on a fast section of the stage through the Grand Chaco.

Neither crew member was injured in the incident and this emphasised the strength and build quality of the Ford Ranger.

The team managed to retrieve the stricken car on Tuesday evening and carried out superficial repairs to sections of the car in San Miguel de Tucumán, but team management reached the regrettable decision to retire the Ford from the race when the extent of the damage to the front and rear was examined in detail.

“Regrettably, Xevi and Ruben are out of the race,” said a disappointed Scott Abraham, managing director of South Racing.  “Xevi rolled the car multiple times in a high-speed sixth gear accident when he lost control. The impact damaged the front of the car and both the front and rear suspension and the cage. There was no way to repair it. We managed to recover the Ranger from the stage, but it’s game over. Unfortunately, it was a driver error and there is nothing we can do about it.”

Bolivian driver Marco Bulacia and Argentinean co-driver Claudio Bustos are running strongly in the second South Racing Ford Ranger and set out into the third stage towards San Salvador de Jujuy in 23rd overall on Wednesday morning.

Both of the latest generation Ford Rangers have been prepared in collaboration with DMAS Competicion in Chile and Neil Woolridge Motorsport (NWM). Pons had support from Esponsorama, Cirsa and Power Electronics, while Bulacia’s ongoing Dakar challenge has additional backing from YPFB, Vialco, Hard Rock Santa Cruz, BOA and Ende.

Neil Perkins,