Australia’s Bruce Garland and Harry Suzuki are “just cruising” after the fourth stage of the 2010 Dakar Rally – but they have broken into the top 20.

The Sydney-based pair finished the stage in 23rd place*, while their Swedish teammates Pelle Wallentheim and Olle Ohlsson finished 31st*, both crews driving Isuzu D-MAX utes built by Garland MotorSports. The results put them in 19th *and 23rd* outright, respectively (*correct at time of writing).

Stage Four from Fiambalá to Copiapó was to have included a special (competition) stage of 203km, but after many competitors were stranded in the sand dunes at nightfall the previous day, organisers decided to start today’s stage 90 minutes later, and make it shorter. Around 43km was slashed from the competitive distance, making it 160km long.

The 394km transport section took competitors across the Andes Mountains and the border between Argentina and Chile at an altitude of more than 4000m, before heading to the outskirts of the Atacama Desert for the special stage, which included another lengthy section of sand dunes.

“We’re just cruising,” said Garland, admitting it had been a tiring day even though it was shorter than originally expected.

“We can’t compete with the speed of the guys at the front so we’re not even trying, but I can’t believe the way they are bashing their cars around – not all of them will make the finish line.

“At least today was a bit cooler than yesterday. It was probably in the low 40s today compared to yesterday when our temperature gauge showed the ambient temperature was 59°C. It was a really bad stage last year and I think it was even worse this time around.

“Today’s stage had a lot of what I would call ‘dune crossings’ – sort of mountains and valleys of dunes, but they cut out the worst of it because so many people got held up in the sand yesterday.

“We started the stage up around 3600m above sea level, and we’re now at Copiapó, which is 800m, so it’s a nice change. You’re working hard when you’re up that high. The service truck isn’t due in for another hour – they couldn’t leave till all the competitors had started – so we’re just filling up with fuel and then we might go looking for a beer with Pelle and Olle – I think we’ve all earned it!

“When the crew gets here, there’s nothing they need to do to the cars, other than basic maintenance. They’re both running really well.”

At the head of the field, just one second separated the top two at the end of the stage, with American NASCAR star Robby Gordon (Hummer) pipping Dakar legend Stéphane Peterhansel (BMW) for the stage win.
In outright terms, Peterhansel still leads the event with Carlos Sainz and Nasser Al-Attiyah behind him, both in VW Touaregs.
Of last year’s podium place-getters, defending champion Giniel de Villiers (VW) is making up ground after some major mechanical issues on Monday. He’s now sitting in 20th place, just 33 seconds behind Garland. Mark Miller (VW), who was second last year, is still in fourth while 2009’s third placed driver, Robby Gordon (Hummer), has gained one place from yesterday and is now in eighth.
Garland’s prediction of carnage among the leaders has already proved to be correct – Stage One leader Joan ‘Nani’ Roma (BMW) has been forced to withdraw as a result of damage from a big accident during yesterday’s stage. Fortunately neither of the crew was hurt.
Tonight (Australian time) the rally crosses the daunting Atacama Desert, passing numerous gold and copper mining projects, en route to the booming coastal city of Antofagasta.
High temperatures are likely to make the soft sand and ‘fesh-fesh’ extremely difficult to cross, as the crews embark upon a massive 483km special stage. They have a 90km liaison (transport) taking them to the start and a 97km link spiralling down towards sea level and the overnight camp by the Pacific Ocean.
A total of 302 vehicles started the fourth 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 one in Chile. Continuing their 9030km journey, there are six 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 ( and also on the SBS website (; 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.

1. Robby Gordon (Hummer): 1h 40m 21s
2. Stéphane Peterhansel (BMW): 1h 40m 22s
3. Nasser Al-Attiyah (VW): + 2m 26s
23. Bruce Garland/Harry Suzuki: + 34m 21s  (2h 14m 42s)
31. Pelle Wallentheim/Olle Ohlsson: +50m (2h 30m 21s)

1. Stéphane Peterhansel (BMW): 10h 54m 50s
2. Carlos Sainz (VW):  + 7m 36s
3. Nasser Al-Attiyah (VW):  + 9m 56s

19. Bruce Garland/Harry Suzuki: 13h 59m 16s (+ 3h 04m 26s)
23. Pelle Wallentheim/Olle Ohlsson 14h 52m 49s (+3h 57m 59s)

Photo: Willy Weyens

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