After a week of long hours, gruelling competition and some of the worst weather that even the remotest parts of South America could throw at them, the South Racing Ford Ranger crew of Marco Bulacia and Claudio Bustos were able to enjoy a few hours rest in the Bolivian city of La Paz on Sunday.
The Dakar Rally has been brutal this year, but Bulacia has soldiered on in the face of adversity and will start the second half of the world’s most famous rally on Monday from 22nd position in the overall standings.
Thousands and thousands of people lined the streets to welcome the Dakar caravan into the narrow streets of La Paz, as the surviving motorcycles, quads and trucks scaled down off the Altoplano into the city that nestles in a giant bowl surrounded by stunning mountainous peaks.
South Racing had lost the DMAS Ford Ranger of Xavier Pons and Ruben Garcia as early as the second stage in Argentina last week. The Spaniard had been second quickest on the first stage in Paraguay before crashing heavily in the Grand Chaco and his demise placed even greater importance on Bulacia reaching his native Bolivia.
While South Racing technicians completely rebuilt the Ford Ranger and replaced components within the regulations, Bulacia was able to spend time with family and friends, carry out numerous media interviews and even enjoy a podium welcome from the Bolivian president Evo Morales.
I guess it was two mixed results for the Ford Rangers on the first half of the Dakar, Scott Abraham, managing director of South Racing. Xevi showed great pace at the start and Marco has shown, especially over the last couple of stages, when he was running inside the top 10 at times before some navigational issues, that we are in a very good position going into the final week. We just need to see what Mother Nature throws at us and how that will affect the distances of the rally. We are still looking to get the Ford Ranger into the top 15 when we reach Buenos Aires.
Bulacia’s latest generation South Racing Ford Ranger was prepared by Neil Woolridge Motorsport (NWM) with collaboration from South Racing. Bulacia has additional backing from YPFB, Vialco, Hard Rock Santa Cruz, BOA and Ende for his second Dakar with South Racing.
Tomorrow (Monday), teams tackle the first half of a Marathon stage to the overnight halt in Uyuni. The special runs for 322km in a route of 622km, but caution will be the key word on the treacherous tracks at altitude, as there will be no service assistance for competitors at the bivouac. The crew will need to work on the cars themselves before the second half of the Marathon stage descends to the Argentinean side of the border and the city of Salta on Tuesday.