Spaniard Xavier Pons and Chilean Daniel Mas Valdes safely negotiated the treacherous sands and punishing heat of the 11th stage of the Dakar Rally between La Rioja and San Juan in Argentina on Thursday. They are now just two days away from finishing the world’s most famous off-road rally in a pair of Ford Rangers.
Energy-sapping heat, soft sand and choking fesh-fesh were just some of the hazards the duo overcame on the way to the finish and a much-needed rest in San Juan. Despite losing time following in the dust behind trucks on the track, Pons completed the stage in 26th overall – five places in front of Mas Valdes – and the duo held an official 30th and 32nd in the general classification at the overnight halt.
Stage 11 headed out of La Rioja and included 281km of liaison and another demanding special stage of 431km that started in the Talampaya National Park and meandered to a finish a short distance from San Juan. The special was delayed for a short time while route helicopters reached their positions and temperatures were already heading into the high thirties Centigrade by the time the cars began the special.
Pons and co-driver Ricardo Torlaschi are running their Ranger in a joint venture between DMAS South Racing and Esponsorama and began the day in 33rd in the overall standings and 39th on the road amongst the surviving 80 cars.
Mas Valdes and co-driver Juan Pablo Latrach reached the bivouac in La Rioja late on Wednesday evening after a fraught passage through the dunes and were registered in 46th overall at the start of the day and running 55th on the road in the second Ford Ranger.
Both drivers started the complicated special impressively, despite the searing heat and tricky navigation, and held 32nd and 29th through the first of the official waypoint checks and went on to finish the special strongly.