Team Isuzu Diesel Mission enjoyed a much better third day of the UAE Desert Challenge across the Arabian Desert’s Empty Quarter on Wednesday. They eventually set the seventh and 11th fastest times on the day’s daunting 340 km desert section and moved up to 14th and 15th overall.

After a dramatic second leg, Australian driver Bruce Garland and co-driver Harry Suzuki were permitted to restart just behind the leading pack of cars out of the 34 survivors and they set about making up lost time from the outset across the treacherous sand dunes, although they did get stuck in soft sand on one occasion and lost a couple of minutes.

Swedish team mates Par Wallentheim and Dan-Olov Ohlsson also ran well on Wednesday, but they got stuck twice in the soft sand.

 “No-one ran into the side of us today so it was a much better day,” joked Garland, who had taken the start after the mechanics had worked throughout the night to repair the bodywork, fuel lines and fuel system on the damaged D-Max.

“We did get stuck in one place for a few minutes in the bowl of a dune, but we have some new ramps and it was not a problem. It was a useful test for us today for the Dakar, in terms of checking temperatures and reliability, and we had a good finish on the stage. We want more of the same tomorrow.”

“Today’s stage was actually more difficult than the one where we had problems on Tuesday, but we had a much better run,” said Wallentheim, who, like Garland, benefited from sterling work by the team’s mechanics throughout the night. “I got stuck a couple of times in the dunes, but the car was fine. We had no problems with the temperatures.”

Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah began the day with a 95-minute over his Russian colleague Leonid Novitskiy and extended his overall lead to 2h 51m 50s over the UAE’s Yayha Al-Helai, when Leonid Novitskiy was delayed with engine problems.

Both D-Max crews were given heavy time penalties for missing the full route on Tuesday, but they were permitted to restart on Wednesday morning from 21st and 25th positions on the road and held 20th and 22nd in the general classification.

But Garland put in an early morning charge and managed to reach the first control as the 10th car on the stage, having passed several struggling rivals in the desert. Wallentheim was running 15th and they both maintained a good pace through the second passage control.

Garland and Wallenstheim reached the third passage control in 10th and 13th places on the stage and they were running as the eighth and 14th drivers through PC4, before reaching the finish in good time.

Despite some setbacks early in the event, Garland is delighted with the performance of the D-Max. “I have experienced first hand the good performance of the D-Max now. I know how much potential it has. It is evident that diesel engine technology has improved a lot over the years.

“It will not be surprising to me if more and more cross-country rally drivers choose to compete with diesel cars. I even think that we will see a diesel model competing at the highest level in speed rallies like the WRC in the near future.”

Second day problems on this year’s UAE Desert Challenge have emphasised the importance of having good backing for the crews. “The driver and navigator are only part of the team,” adds Garland. Most of the mechanics and engineers have been with us since the beginning. They are my mates and we do a lot together and that makes us a very strong and determined team. A teams has the same aim and we strive to achieve those goals together.”

Tomorrow (Thursday) is the penultimate day of this year’s event and the day’s route consists of a short 6.50km run out to the start of the 314.95km special and a 122.20 road section back to the bivouac after another punishing day’s action in the sand dunes and across the treacherous soft sand that makes this event such a unique and arduous challenge.
2008 UAE Desert Challenge - positions on leg 3 (unofficial):   
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Tina Thörner (S) BMW X3 CC (3.0-litre diesel - 1.2)    4h 40m 41s
2. Yayha Al-Helai (UAE)/Khalid Al-Kendi (UAE) Nissan Patrol (4.0 gasoline - 2.1)         5h 48m 29s
3. Krzysztof Holowczyc (PL)/Jean-Marc Fortin (B) Nissan Navara (3.5 V6 gasoline – 1.1)    5h 58m 09s

7. Bruce Garland (AUS)/Harry Suzuki (J) Isuzu D-Max (3.0-litre diesel – 1.2)        6h 26m 36s
11. Par Wallentheim (S)/Dan-Olov Ohlsson (S) Isuzu D-Max (3-0 litre diesel – 1.2)    7h 07m 41s

2008 UAE Desert Challenge - positions after leg 3 (unofficial):   
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Tina Thörner (S) BMW X3 CC (3.0-litre diesel - 1.2)    11h 18m 37s
2. Yayha Al-Helai (UAE)/Khalid Al-Kendi (UAE) Nissan Patrol (4.0 gasoline - 2.1)         14h 10m 27s
3. Laurent Rosso (F)/Fabian Lurquin (B) Nissan Pathfinder  (3.5 gasoline – 2.1)        15h 26m 05s

14. Par Wallentheim (S)/Dan-Olov Ohlsson (S) Isuzu D-Max (3.0-litre diesel - 1.2)    22h 28m 08s
15. Bruce Garland (AUS)/Harry Suzuki (J) Isuzu D-Max (3.0-litre diesel – 1.2)               22h 34m 12s
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