Consistent Alvarez makes it three out of three
Stage 12 – 17 January 2014
El Salvador to La Serena (Chile)
Stage distance: Liaison: 349 km, Special Stage: 350 km, Total: 699 km
LA SERENA, CHILE, 17 January 2014 – Lucio Alvarez and Ronnie Graue maintained their strong form during the second week of the Dakar Rally by claiming their third consecutive top 10 finish in today’s penultimate stage from El Salvador to La Serena.
The Team Ford Racing duo said farewell to the dunes of the Atacama Desert by completing the 699 km stage in eighth in their Ford Ranger. It follows eighth and ninth place finishes during the previous two days and promoted the Argentines to 22nd after starting 24th this morning.
The 350 km competitive section concluded with 150 km through the sand, the last journey into the desert in this year’s Dakar Rally, ending with a spectacular steep descent from a high dune to the finish near Copiapo.
There was a misty start from El Salvador at more than 1400 m but Alvarez shrugged it off and was third fastest at the opening checkpoint 13 km into the test. He maintained a strong pace throughout the test to finish 26 min 15 sec behind winners Stephane Peterhansel / Jean-Paul Cottret.
Alvarez stopped to change a rear left puncture two-thirds of the way through and also lost time when he had to stop and dig the Ranger out of deep sand. However, the time loss amounted to only seven minutes in total.
Lucio Alvarez (308):
“Today was another really encouraging day. We didn’t have any problems with the car and our only major time loss came when we had to stop and change a puncture, but we weren’t alone in that.
“Our pace through the dunes was good. Maybe we need more torque and power but the Ranger was strong and that’s encouraging for the whole team. We need to work on the car’s development, especially in the engine, but after three top 10 finishes in three days the potential is there for all to see.
“Near the finish there was a big bump that launched the car into the air. It came just before the flying finish and I was going as fast as I could when I hit the bump. Maybe I was a little too fast – but I’m sure it must have looked good for all the fans watching there.”
Scott Abraham (Team Manager – South Racing):
“That’s three out of three top 10 finishes – it seems that Chile likes us more than Argentina did! To achieve that requires both speed and strength and as this rally has progressed we have made big steps forward in both areas.
“We all know there is room for improvement but we were confident that when the rally headed into the Atacama Desert, the trickiest part of entire event, both driver and car would come good and happily that’s the way it has evolved.
“Tomorrow’s stage is short, but we mustn’t take our eyes off the ball. The entire team has focused hard for almost two weeks now and we must ensure that concentration continues tomorrow if we want to enjoy the satisfaction of seeing Lucio, Ronnie and the Ford Ranger cross the podium in Valparaiso.”
The final stage is the shortest of the event. After leaving La Serena shortly before 09:00, competitors face a 122 km liaison section to the start of the competitive section. The 157 km test winds through cacti-covered hills on dirt tracks, with the reward for the vigilant a place on the finish podium in Valparaiso after more than 9 300 km over 13 stages in the world’s toughest motorsport event.