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Dakar: Ford SA toughens-up

2013-12-04 07:49

SA DAKAR HOPEFULS: South African motorsport competitors, Chris Visser (left) and Japie Badenhorst, will take on the 2014 Dakar Rally behind the wheel of a Ford Ranger. Image: FORD

14 days, 9300km, three countries... Ford's SA competitors, Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst, are preparing for the world's most gruelling off-road race - the 2014 Dakar Rally!

Two Ford teams are preparing for the world’s most grueling off-road race – the 2014 Dakar Rally. Two teams will race Ford’s Dakar-tuned Ranger bakkies in South America.

The race lasts for 14 days, lots of vehicles and their crews don't but Ford’s Lucio Alvarez and co-driver Ronnie Graue as well as South Africans Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst are pushing themselves to be fit by January 5.

They'll be taking on a 9300km route through deserts, mountains and sand as well as driving in altitudes as high as 4.7km through Argentina, Bolivia and Chile.


South African Chris Visser is working with a sports scientist from the University of Johannesburg to enhance his preparation for his first Dakar. Visser and co-driver Japie Badenhorst finished second in the 2013 SA Cross Country Championship in their debut season for Ford.

Visser said: “I’m very race fit and used to long-distance driving, but I’m focusing on the physical side as we’re not used to doing such long races.

“My exercise programme involves training at gym in the morning and working with the sports scientist in the afternoon. The plan encompasses bodyweight-based exercises such as lunges, push-ups, sit-ups and pull-ups, along with circuits and cycling.”

Badenhorst said: “Mental fitness is a big factor on the Dakar Rally, but it’s something I’ve overcome running the Comrades, which has taught me to ‘vasbyt’, or fight on till the end. The lack of sleep will also be an issue as will overall endurance, particularly if we get stuck in the dunes a lot.”


For the South African crew, the months leading up to the start of the Dakar Rally in Rosario, Argentina, on January 5 2014 have been used to familiarise themselves with certain aspects of the driving and, more crucially, the navigation systems.

Visser said: “With the hard-surface stages I believe we will be on the pace, as it is fairly close to what we have in the local cross country championship.

“However we don’t have much experience driving in the dunes, so we may struggle a bit there, but we learned a lot about driving the Ranger in the sand during the test session in Namibia in September, and Lucio and Ronnie gave us lots of valuable advice and guidance.”

Badenhorst admits that it’s going to be a steep learning curve for him in terms of navigation, as the road books and all of the communications used by ASO, the organisers of the Dakar Rally, are in French.

Badenhorst said: “The basic road book is similar to what we use in the SA championship, with the same kind of direction information and pictures, so it’s a matter of getting to grips with the key French words and abbreviations.”


The GPS is new to the SA team and the test session near Walvis Bay earlier in 2013 was their first experience with the system.

“Aside from learning a completely different GPS system, and figuring out how to program it and find the waypoints, we also have to understand the different types of waypoints used on the Dakar.”

Badenhorst explains that the open waypoint shows the required travel direction and distance immediately, while the security waypoints are used for important checkpoints and road crossings.

Badenhorst said: “The hidden waypoints are a lot more difficult, as they only open up when you’re within a specific radius of the point, and only then does it reveal the next waypoint information, which is going to make the navigation very interesting.”
Read more on:    ford  |  dakar  |  south america  |  off-road  |  motorsport  |  racing

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