DAK Electrical problems cost Villagra and Memi over two hours into Antofagasta

37th Dakar Argentina-Bolivia-Chile (January 3-17, 2015)
Stage 5: Copiapó - Antofagasta
liaison, 239km; special, 458km; total, 697 km.


· Qatar’s Al-Attiyah extends rally lead to 10min 35sec; stage win for Russian Vasilyev
· Rally route reaches copper mining town of Antofagasta on Chile’s Pacific Coast

ANTOFAGASTA, CHILE, January 8, 2015 – Federico Villagra’s and Andrés Memi’s climb back through the field in the 2015 Dakar Rally suffered a setback on the punishing fifth special stage between Copiapó and Antofagasta in Chile on Thursday evening.

The Argentine pair suffered a niggling electrical problem in the desert and dropped over two and a half hours to the stage winner, while they rectified the fault and battled on to the finish of the demanding special. The delay means that the YPF Competicion Ford Ranger driver will need to regroup and mount a second fight back through the field over the next few days.

Cars, bikes, quads and trucks all tackled an identical fifth special stage through the Chilean desert. A liaison section of 174km steered competitors to the start of the 458km of competition and a link of 65km guided the survivors into the overnight halt.

Villagra began the day in 37th overall after continuing his climb through the field on day four. Only 91 of the original 136 cars were still in the rally and Villagra’s Neil Woolridge Motorsport-prepared car was seeded 22nd for the start of the day’s action.

The Argentine was running inside the top 20 through the early waypoints before his electrical gremlins intervened. He had slipped back seven places to an unofficial 44th overall at 00.15hrs CET on Friday morning.

Before the day’s delay, Villagra had been upbeat after his first day problems: “Day four was a good day for us, no complications of any kind and with a car that behaved perfectly throughout the stage. We had to dodge quite a few stones and then we were fully in the dunes, where the priority was not going fast, but maintaining a good pace to continue to move forward in the general classification.

“This year’s Dakar is being much harder that previous editions. There have been a large number of dropouts already. That is a true barometer of what is happening after just four days. Today, the plan was the same, to keep our strategy, continue to discover the virtues of the Ranger and reach Buenos Aires according to our original plan at the end of next week.”

Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah led the cars into the fifth stage with an overall advantage over Giniel de Villiers of 8min 15sec and was the first driver across the finish line in a time of 4hr 22min 42sec. Russian Vladimir Vasilyev claimed his first Dakar stage win by the margin of 20 seconds from Saudi driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi. However, Al-Attiyah extended his overall lead over De Villiers to 10min 35sec while Al-Rajhi consolidated third place.

South Racing is looking after Villagra’s on-event logistics and day-to-day management under the directorship of the experienced Scott Abraham and his team.

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 (Friday, January 9), the sixth special stage takes teams into the northern extremities of Chile and a competitive section of 255km through dunes and sandy terrain from Antofagasta to a finish podium in the centre of Iquique - a city still recovering from the massive 8.2 magnitude earthquake that struck in April last year.

This will mark the end of the first half of the Dakar before car crews tackle a Marathon special into Bolivia for the first time. They will then benefit from a rest day in Iquique before beginning the gruelling run south through Chile and into Argentina for the ceremonial finish in Buenos Aires on January 17.


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Neil Perkins, NDP Publicity Services, Tel: + 44 7831 123153, Email: ndppublicity@googlemail.com, Twitter: @LordPerkins

Date issued: 08/01/2015

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