Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah claims second Dakar Rally win on shortened final stage.
Buenos Aires – The Argentine crew of Federico Villagra and Andrés Memi achieved their goal of reaching the finish of the punishing Dakar Rally in Buenos Aires on Saturday.
The YPF Competicion Ford Ranger duo rounded off 13 days of intense competition across some of the most demanding desert, mountainous and rocky lowland terrain on the planet to guide their car to the ceremonial finish in 27th overall.
A fortnight of racing that had got off to the worst possible start, when they broke a prop shaft on the very first special stage between Buenos Aires and Villa Carlos Paz and plummeted to the foot of the general classification, ended on a high note with several strong stage performances and a sterling climb back through the field.
The last few special were really fun and a chance to show the strengths of the Ford Ranger and make a move up the leader board,
Their determination, coupled with hard work from the entire team from South Racing and Neil Woolridge Motorsport, ensured that Villagra finished the rally for the second year in succession and continued the Ford Ranger’s consistent Dakar record of finishing on each the two occasions it has been entered. Only 68 of the original 136 starters made it to the finish ramp in Buenos Aires.
“The last few special were really fun and a chance to show the strengths of the Ford Ranger and make a move up the leader board,” said Villagra. “Yesterday, we started 26th and quickly caught Cyril Despres ahead of us. He did not let us through and we were stuck behind him for the entire stage, despite using the Sentinel repeatedly. But we made it to Rosario and today was a case of taking no risks and cruising to the finish in awful weather conditions.”
South Racing looked after Villagra’s on-event logistics and day-to-day management under the directorship of Scott Abraham and his team. The Ford Ranger was prepared and developed in South Africa by Neil Woolridge Motorsport (NWM).
“It was certainly a very tough Dakar, but the whole team pulled through until the end and did not give up,” said Abraham. “Federico and Andrés did an amazing job bringing the Ranger home every day. I would like to thank the entire team who worked tirelessly and they have made us proud.
“YPF, Ford, Rudy Project, OMP and Gold Nutrition have been great and, without their support, it would not have been possible. Lastly, I would like to thank the team from NWM, who designed and built a great Ranger.”
68 of the original 136 starters make it to the fanfare Dakar finish
The final 174km sprint through Argentina to the finish used a special stage between the city of San Nicolás de los Arroyos and Baradero in the province of Buenos Aires. Villagra started the special in 23rd on the road, but heavy rain had already forced race officials to shorten the bike stage to just 101km and the decision was taken to stop the car stage at PC1, after just 34km. The Argentine stayed clear of trouble and recorded the 25th quickest time to confirm the team’s goal of finishing the Dakar Rally.
Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah began the final stage with a comfortable advantage of 35min 39sec over Giniel de Villiers. The Qatari had controlled the race from the start and, save for a penalty for speeding on the first day, had led from the first stage. He eventually reached the end of the shortened stage in sixth position to claim a second Dakar win by the margin of 35min 34sec. American Robbie Gordon clinched the day’s stage.
2015 Dakar Rally – final positions
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Mini All4 Racing: 40hr 32min 25sec
2. Giniel de Villiers (ZAF)/Dirk von Zitzewitz (DEU) Toyota Hilux: 41hr 07min 59sec
3. Krzysztof Holowczyc (POL)/Xavier Panseri (FRA) Mini All4 Racing: 42hr 04min 26sec
4. Erik van Loon (NLD)/Wouter Roesegar (NLD) Mini All4 Racing: 2hr 04min 26sec
5. Vladimir Vasilyev (RUS)/Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS) Mini All4 Racing: 43hr 45min 06sec
27. Federico Villagra (ARG)/Andrés Memi (ARG) Ford Ranger: 53hr 49min 01sec
Ford at Dakar