Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah takes first stage win and outright Dakar lead
Villa Carlos Paz, Argentina – The Argentinean duo of Federico Villagra and Andrés Memi suffered a broken rear propshaft near the start of the first 170km selective section of the 2015 Dakar Rally between Buenos Aires and Villa Carlos Paz and lost over 80 minutes completing the special in just two-wheel drive on Sunday afternoon.
After a 144km non-competitive liaison section from the Argentine capital to the start of the opening stage at Baradero, Villagra’s YPF Competicion Ford Ranger - which is being run on the event by South Racing and was prepared by Neil Woolridge Motorsport – was classified in 18th position through the opening passage control at the 15km point.
It was a disappointing thing to happen on the first day, but this race has just started and is very long,
But the crew broke a rear propshaft soon afterwards and had dropped 51 minutes to rally leader Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah at the second passage control after 69km and a further 20 minutes to the Qatari at PC4.
They eventually reached the stage finish in a time of 2hr 36min 38sec and were classified at the foot of the general classification in an unofficial 130th position, 1hr 23min 48sec behind the leader, and facing a fight back from the tail end of the leader board over the next few days.
“It was a disappointing thing to happen on the first day, but this race has just started and is very long,” reflected Villagra. “We made it to the end of the stage. We broke a propshaft early on and had to come home in two-wheel drive. For sure, we will fight back tomorrow. The Ford Ranger is fast, the team is behind us and we are looking forward to climbing back up the leader board.”
Al-Attiyah led from the start to the finish of the stage at San Nicolas de Los Arrocos and edged into an outright 22-second advantage over Argentine driver Orlando Terranova. A long road section then guided crews to the service area and overnight halt in Villa Carlos Paz.
The town is better known at the base for the FIA World Rally Championship event in Argentina and passes close to 45-year-old Villagra’s home city of Córdoba.
In addition to Argentine energy company YPF, Villagra’s Dakar programme is being supported by suspension and OEM parts company Fric Rot, Brenson (Dealer Ford), Piamontesa and construction company Natania. OMP, Michelin, Rudy Project and Gold Nutrition have provided technical assistance.
Tomorrow (Monday, January 5), the Dakar route steers teams further west across the Argentinean wastelands to San Juan in the Cuyo region, the town surrounded by the foothills of the Andes mountain range to the west and nestled in the Tulúm Valley. San Juan is most notable for its nearby vineyards.
In a planned timetable of 625km, 518km will be competitive in what race officials have stated will be a demanding and varied special with tricky navigation, plenty of stones and a late section through sandy terrain to catch out the unwary.
Ford at Dakar