The YPF Competicion Ford Ranger pairing of Federico Villagra and Andrés Memi suffered no real issues on the two punishing special stages in Bolivia and recorded the 21st quickest time on the daunting eighth timed test from Uyuni in Bolivia to a finish at Iquique in Chile on Sunday.
A stage that started on the Bolivian high plateau eventually descended through a series of sand dunes to a finish near the Pacific Ocean in Chile and Villagra’s performance ensured that the Ford Ranger crew could enjoy Monday’s rest day from 37th place in the overall standings.
“We finished the stage without problems. We just had to repair a brake caliper yesterday on the Marathon stage,” said Villagra. “There were very swollen rivers and we crossed the salar over a layer of water in many places. Saying that, we are pleased with what we have achieved in these two days and with the way we are progressing with the Ford Ranger.”
The 76 cars that remained in the rally left the start of the mammoth eighth stage in groups of up to five and set out around the vast Salar de Uyuni. Villagra was classified 38th overall in Uyuni and started the day’s special from 22nd position among the fifth group of five drivers.
The stage had been affected by heavy rain in recent days and was split into two sections: crews tackled a 472km part at high altitude across Bolivia and then embarked upon a neutralised section of 274km through the frontier and back into Chile. The final 38km were competitive through the dunes to the finish in Iquique.
Teams achieved high speeds across the salt flats and into the control at the start of the neutralisation zone. Villagra was classified in 40th after 380km and reached the end of the first section of the special in 30th. The Ford Ranger had a trouble free run through the sea of sand dunes and the sandy descent into Iquique and posted a stage time of 3hr 54min 39sec.
Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah had suffered from altitude sickness on the climb into Bolivia on Saturday and seen his overall lead reduced to 8min 14sec. He managed to regain 13 seconds on Giniel de Villiers through the eighth stage and reached the rest day with an advantage of 8min 27sec. Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi claimed a first ever stage win on his Dakar debut.