Ford duo make cut-off after hours of delay

2014-01-09 00:00

THE remaining built-in-KZN Ford Ranger in the Dakar yesterday made the third stage cut-off with minutes to spare after the Team Ford drivers Lucio Alvarez and Ronnie Graue had to replace half of the front suspension on their Ranger just 80 km from the finish line.

Racing hard in Ranger number 308, the pair had settled into a decent pace through the first two-thirds of the 301 km third stage, passing several cars as the route dipped and climbed between 1 800 and over 3 100 m in altitude, but their run came to an abrupt halt when they hit a culvert in the road.

“We passed several cars, but with all the dust we didn’t see the culvert and we broke the lower suspension arm,” said Alvarez.

The Ranger carried the necessary spare parts and Alvarez and Graue worked for hours to replace the damaged components in 40-degree heat as cars screamed past at full tilt, creating clouds of dust.

They managed to get the Ranger back on the road and made it to the bivouac in San Juan just minutes before the refuelling closed for the night.

The hours spent replacing the bent arm, however, dropped Team Ford to 81st overall out of 105 remaining competitors in the car category, and they will start racing tonight (South African time) in 18th position.

Team Ford was slightly cheered by the good news that team member Chris Visser had been released from hospital after he and co-driver Japie Badenhorst had rolled their Ranger heavily end-over-end in the treacherous Nihuil desert after they had launched the Ranger over a dune on Monday.

Visser was kept in hospital overnight for observation on a compression injury to his back.

Yesterday’s tough stage three saw 20 racers withdraw. South Africa’s Dakar rookies Thomas Rundle and Juan Mohr made good time in their Toyota Hilux, however, improving their overall position by two places to 33rd despite losing their fifth gear for much of the stage.

In the front, Dakar veteran Giniel de Villiers and his German co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz are lying sixth overall, while team-mate Leeroy Poulter, who is competing in his first Dakar Rally with co-driver Rob Howie, was 10th overall after starting 23rd on Sunday.

On the motorbikes, SA’s overall off­road biking champion Riaan van Niekerk rode a safe day to finish a comfortable 27th overall for the day, 11 minutes off the pace set by Spaniard Juan Barreda on the Honda. It was a long first day for the riders finishing off with just over 800 km on the KTM’s odo.

Zimbabwe’s biker David Gregory (No 102) was among the six bikes that withdrew yesterday.

In the trucks, SA co-drivers Sean Smith-Baillie (No 569 MAN) and Merc co-drivers Johannes Geel (No 566) are still in contention for top placings, but the Mercedes-Benz of Charles Rossouw (No 562) did not start the rally.

Russia’s Andrei Karginov now sits third in his Kamaz truck, 39 minutes off overall leader and 2011 champion Gerard de Rooy in an Iveco.

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