Aussies slowed by ‘day of hell’ in Dakar Rally
- 7th January 2010, 9:32am
Australian driver Bruce Garland says he knows what hell looks like, after racing for six and a half hours during the fifth stage of the 2010 Dakar Rally.
Garland and his co-driver Harry Suzuki finished the 483km stage through Chile’s Atacama Desert in 24th place*, while their Swedish teammates Pelle Wallentheim and Olle Ohlsson finished 39th*, both crews driving Isuzu D-MAX utes built by Garland MotorSports. The results have dropped them back marginally in the order, to 21st* and 26th* respectively (*correct at time of writing), from 19th and 23rd * yesterday.
“I know what hell looks like because I drove through it today,” says Garland.
“Not a blade of grass the whole way. Just mountains, rocks and heaps of bulldust. It’s just so fine it gets into everything and it’s murder to drive through.
“We got stuck behind a truck in all of that, for about 200km, just eating his dust. I’m going to have my eyes flushed out later tonight because they are so gritty, and I need to see the doctor because I’ve got some sort of cold or chest problem – the dust certainly didn’t help!
“We just tried to maintain the best pace we could, but taking it as easy as we could in the rough stuff. The stage is just littered with broken down vehicles – we passed so many of them, including Stéphane Peterhansel.
“He might have been leading yesterday but he isn’t any more. He was having some major problems. I still can’t believe how these guys just thrash their cars, but then they get into camp each night and their mechanics replace everything!”
Stage Five was always going to be a marathon. While it was a similar distance to yesterday, there was a major difference: today there was only 187km of transport to do compared to 426km yesterday. The battle today was the 483km of competition, the second longest special stage in the event.
There was sand, sand and more sand, including the treacherous ‘fesh-fesh’ (‘bulldust’ to Australians), which is more like talcum powder than sand, and extremely difficult to cross in high temperatures.
At the top end of the field, the nine-time (bike and car) winner, Stéphane Peterhansel (BMW) is no longer a player. He began the day ahead of Carlos Sainz (VW), but major mechanical problems forced him to stop twice on the stage and he struggled to the end in two-wheel drive, finishing the day in 33rd, which put him back to 10th in the outright placings.
The stage was won by Mark Miller, but it is his teammate Carlos Sainz who now leads the field, by four minutes and 37 seconds, ahead of Nasser Al-Attiyah with Miller third, all three in factory-backed VW Touaregs.
Miller was second outright at the end of last year’s event. This time around, he’s ahead of both the drivers he shared the podium with. Defending champion Giniel de Villiers, also in a VW, had another day of drama to finish the stage 17th, putting him in 18th outright, while US NASCAR star Robby Gordon (Hummer), who was third last year and won yesterday’s stage, was fourth on the stage and is fourth outright.
The sixth stage (to be run tonight, Australian time) from Antofagasta to Iquique is a total of 598km, including the 418km special stage. It features dune crossings, fast off-piste tracks and mountainous walls of sand – before the descent to the overnight camp beside the Pacific Ocean.
The stage also passes through the Pampa del Tamarugal National Reserve, world renowned for its rare forests found in the middle of the rainless Atacama Desert.
Iquique is the capital of the Tarapacá region of northern Chile and is one of the largest duty-free commercial ports in South America. Copper mining is a major contributor to the local economy.
A total of 268 vehicles started the fifth stage, compared with the 362 vehicles, which left the official start ramp in Buenos Aires on New Year’s Day. They have now completed three stages in Argentina and two in Chile. Continuing their 9030km journey, there are five more stages in Chile (plus a rest day on Saturday) before the ‘caravan’ crosses the Andes back into Argentina on January 13 for four stages and the official finish (in Buenos Aires, January 17).
Garland and Suzuki are driving an Isuzu D-MAX 4x4 ute, built in Garland’s Sydney backyard. The standard 3.0-litre turbo-diesel production engine has been slightly tweaked for better performance, especially for the high altitude sections of the event. It has maximum torque of 600Nm – up 66 per cent on the standard roadgoing D-MAX ute – and peak power of 180kW, which is 50 per cent more than the standard vehicle. It competes in Class T1.2, which is modified 4WD diesel.
In 2009, the Australian pair finished 11th outright and were first ‘amateur’ (non-factory team) home. They also claimed bragging rights as first diesel ute and first production chassis car. Their Swedish teammates (Tubus Racing) finished 44th outright.
The Dakar Rally is the world’s premier off-road endurance competition. First staged in 1979, it was traditionally run in Europe and Africa, but moved to South America in 2009 because of safety concerns. The 2008 race – the last to be held in Africa – was cancelled on the eve of the start after the deaths of four French tourists. Their killers had links to the Al Qaeda terrorist network and threatened Dakar Rally organisers and competitors.
There will be regular updates on the team’s performance on the official Isuzu Ute Australia website (www.isuzuute.com.au) and also on the SBS website (www.sbs.com.au/dakar); SBS ONE will show daily highlights of Dakar 2010, every night at 6:00pm AEDT to January 18 and then a one-hour Dakar review from 11am to 12noon on Sunday, January 24.
TIMES: STAGE FIVE (all correct at time of writing)
1. Mark Miller (VW): 5h 6m 15s
2. Carlos Sainz (VW): + 2m 10s
3. Nasser Al-Attiyah (VW): + 4m 27s
24. Bruce Garland/Harry Suzuki: 6h 29m 48s (+ 1h 23m 33s)
39. Pelle Wallentheim/Olle Ohlsson: 8h 2m 16s (2h 56m 01s)
TIMES: OVERALL (all correct at time of writing)
Carlos Sainz (VW): 16h 10m 51s
Nasser Al-Attiyah (VW): +4m 37s
Mark Miller (VW): + 9m 39s
21. Bruce Garland/Harry Suzuki: 20h 29m 04s (+ 4h 18m 13s)
26. Pelle Wallentheim/Olle Ohlsson 22h 55m 05s (+ 6h 44m 14s)
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