TUPIZA (BOLIVIA): South Racing’s Ford Ranger crew of Marco Bulacia and Claudio Bustos continued their steady progress on the 2017 Dakar Rally through what turned out to be a gruelling 416km fourth special stage between San Salvador de Jujuy in Argentina and Tupiza in Bolivia on Thursday.


Starting out in 31st position in the overall standings, the Bolivian and his Argentinean navigator avoided much of the carnage that affected several of the front-running teams and reached the mid-stage point at the Bolivian frontier with the 25th quickest time, which saw them climb two places to a virtual 29th in the overall standings.


They overcame a series of treacherous dunes at altitude as well and arrived at the stage finish with the 23rd quickest time of 5hr 50min 46sec. That was sufficient for Bulacia to steer his South African-built car into his native homeland in an unofficial 27thoverall, although he may move up even higher in the classification when race officials make time adjustments to some of his competitors’ times when various waypoints are checked.


The day’s route headed duo north out of San Salvador de Jujuy and the tracks began to climb to the start of the stage at just under 4,000 metres. The opening kilometres in Argentina were all over 3,400 metres above sea level, although there was a little respite on the run into Tupiza after a short neutralisation zone for the border formalities between Argentina and Bolivia. The stage start was delayed because of low-lying fog in an area that was affected by recent heavy rains.


“Another difficult day on the Dakar. I think Dakar 2017 will go down in history as the Dakar of attrition,” said Scott Abraham, managing director of South Racing. “Marco did a very good job and, after yesterday, when Claudio was sick in the morning with a bug, it was another solid performance.


“Marco has a good position on the road and he is being conservative with his driving. It’s a long Dakar and wild swings in the results can be seen, as has happened today, with more big names going out. It shows how difficult this rally is going to be. Two big stages over the next two days and then we get to the rest day.”


Bulacia’s latest generation South Racing Ford Ranger was prepared by Neil Woolridge Motorsport (NWM) with collaboration from South Racing. Bulacia has additional backing from YPFB, Vialco, Hard Rock Santa Cruz, BOA and Ende for his second Dakar with South Racing.


Tomorrow (Friday), altitude becomes a real factor for the first time, as an exhausting special stage of 447km – the longest of the event so far – takes place between Tupiza and Oruro on the Bolivian Altoplano and includes a series of dune crossings.

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