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SA's Visser out of Dakar Rally

2014-01-07 11:14

SA CREW OUT OF DAKAR: South African’s Chris Visser (left) and co-driver Japie Badenhorst’s 2014 Dakar challenge is over following a crash in the Nihuil sand dunes. Image: FORD

SAN RAFAEL, Argentina - The lead Team Ford Racing Ranger of Argentines Lucio Alvarez and Ronnie Graue (308) made up for Day 1 disappointment by clocking the ninth-fastest time on Stage 2 of the 2014 Dakar Rally.

Sadly Stage 2 signalled a premature end to the race for South African pair Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst in the second Ford Ranger after it launched over one of the  treacherous Nihuil sand dunes and rolled heavily.

END OF ROAD FOR SA HOPEFULS

Visser hurt his neck and was extracted by helicopter to hospital in San Rafael. Medics later confirmed he was alert and able to move. Badenhorst was not hurt.

Team manager Neil Woolridge said: “It was an encouraging performance from Lucio and Ronnie today, which showed that the Ranger has the potential to be competitive. It’s only Day 2 and we have a lot to learn about running the car in these conditions. We'll make improvements as we go along.

“In terms of Chris and Japie, we're happy they have emerged from the accident without serious injuries, which testifies to the strength of the Ranger. The dunes are extremely difficult and even catch out the front-runners. We've communicated with Chris and Japie’s families and they will be kept up to date.

“We are all disappointed that they are out of the race but the team will now focus on the remaining vehicle and give them the best possible package through to the end.”

The first section of the 433km route from San Luis to San Rafael, Alvarez’s home town in Mendoza province, was one of the fastest yet in the 2014 event. Gravel roads gave the crew the opportunity to reach 170km/h several times.

Four minutes were lost with a puncture about half-way through the stage which Alvarez/Graue completed in ninth place with a time of 4hr18min05, 26min behind stage winners and overall leaders Stephane Peterhansel /Jean Paul Cottret (Mini).

The local duo are now 38th overall, having moved up from 130th.

‘MINOR ISSUES WITH THE CAR’

Alvarez said: “We had a much better day with a generally clear run through the stage. Although we picked up a puncture this often happens on a stage like this and it only cost us four minutes.

“The first part of the stage was very fast and we were able to drive at maximum speed with confidence. The dunes were tough though as it was extremely hot. Other than stopping to deflate the tyres slightly, normal in sand, we made it through without stopping.

“We are still refining some minor issues with the car, but overall it’s a good package and we’ve made great progress.”

STAGE 3

Competitors will experience their first taste of the mountains as the Dakar heads north from San Rafael to San Juan, comprising of a 295km liaison and 301km special stage.

The altitude varies from 1800-3100m for two-thirds of the stage then drops down to 1000m near the end.

Bookmark Wheels24's special Dakar Rally section to keep up with event news and results.
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