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When organisers of the notoriously gruelling Dakar Rally describe conditions on the event as a ‘meteorological Armageddon’, it’s clear competitors are having a truly trying day.
Even before Stage Eight started, race control cancelled the first 288km of what was supposed to be a 470km timed special stage. What was to be a route through dry riverbeds was no longer possible after heavy rain, so the competitors drove to a new starting point, with a new target of 183km to race.
The first few cars completed the stage without major problems but then, as a result of a torrential storm, another riverbed was filled by water and competitors found themselves stuck in mud, instead of the sand and ‘fesh-fesh’ (bulldust) they are used to on this event.

The river that needed to be crossed became impassable, so race organisers cancelled the stage 86km from the new start. That made for problems in terms of scoring, but in the end the cars that had made it to the finish at the time of cancellation would keep their times. All the others received the time of the final competitor through, which proved to be that of outright event leader (car category), Stéphane Peterhansel, who was fourth on the day with a time of 2h 07m 21s.

The Australian Isuzu Motorsports team will therefore start Stage Nine (tomorrow, Sunday – Argentine time – is a rest day) in the positions they finished Stage Seven – Bruce Garland and Harry Suzuki (2012 Isuzu D-MAX; car 330) in 44th outright with teammates Adrian Di Lallo and Steve Riley (Red Earth Motorsport, Isuzu D-MAX; car 439) in 45th.

“Two days ago we were in the driest place on earth – the Atacama Desert – and then today they had cancel the first part of the stage because the roads were washed out,” says Garland.

“We were actually going okay in the first part of the revised stage, then we were supposed to drive along this riverbed, and there was torrential rain in the mountains and this flash flood, this wall of water, just came down the river.

“Some of the cars got hit by it and got stuck, so the organisers ended up cancelling the stage. We actually only got a bit of it – we got through – so we would have been happy to keep going, but we got to the check point and they told us the stage had been cancelled and we had to just transport through to Tucumán. It was a long day without much racing – I think we’d been driving for about 15 hours by the time we got to the bivouac.”
Competitors are now having the first of two ‘sleeps’ in San Miguel de Tucumán, 1311km north of Buenos Aires. Tomorrow (Sunday, their time) is a rest day – although with the work needed to prepare for six big stages next week, it’s simply a day without driving. The 2013 Dakar Rally finishes in Santiago, Chile, on Sunday, January 20.

This is Garland’s first run at the event since he crashed over a sand dune during the 2011 rally and broke a vertebra. Two months later he had a heart attack, with the team at Melbourne’s MonashHeart carrying out five bypasses.

Based in Sydney, Australia, Isuzu Motorsports International Off-Road Racing Team is the motor racing operation of Bruce Garland Motorsports and Harry Suzuki, owner of Isuzu Motorsports. Isuzu D-MAX cars built and prepared by Bruce Garland Motorsports and Harry Suzuki have competed and succeeded in both rally and off-road events around the world.

Overall result after eight stages:

1. Stéphane Peterhansel/Jean-Paul Cottret – Mini All4: 18h 31m 04s
2. Nasser Al-Attiyah/Lucas Cruz – Demon Jefferies Buggy: 18h 34m 18s
3. Giniel De Villiers/Dirk Von Zitzewitz – Toyota HiLux: 19h 15m 07s
4. Leonid Novitskiy/Konstantin Zhiltsov – Mini All4: 19h 19m 58s
5. Guerlain Chicherit/Jean-Pierre Garcin – SMG Buggy: 19h 35m 54s
44. Garland/Suzuki – Isuzu D-MAX: 29h 02m 10s
45. Di Lallo/Riley – Isuzu D-MAX: 29h 17m 10s 
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