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“The real rally starts now” says Australia’s Bruce Garland, who is now running 16th outright after Day Eight of the gruelling 9000km Dakar Rally being staged in Argentina and Chile.
 
Garland, navigator Harry Suzuki and their Isuzu D-MAX ute finished the 652km stage (including 294km competitive) in 20th, giving them 16th in the overall standings.  That puts them just behind the multi-million dollar factory teams, and in line to win the award for best privateer result.
 
Swedish teammates Pelle Wallentheim and Olle Ohlsson are now battling to make up ground after a series of dramas last week, and finished today’s run from Valparaiso to La Serena in 50th which puts them in 53rd place outright.
 
“It was more of a long, rough rally stage today, than anything else we have seen so far,” says Garland.
 
“It was very rocky and incredibly narrow. You just had no room for error and there were plenty of cars and trucks that rolled. There were some very steep drops but I don’t think any of the ones that rolled actually went over in the really steep sections.
 
“We’re just driving well within our limits, both of us, because the next few days will be really tough. The rally really starts now because we have long days and we’re moving into the Atacama Desert, which is supposed to be the driest place in the world, and we’re supposed to have temperatures upwards of 40 degrees.
 
“I think tomorrow is going to be an eight or 10-hour day on the road and it will probably be even harder the day after. I think the next couple of days will really change the face of the event, and people who haven’t done events like Dubai (the UAE Desert Challenge), as we have, are really going to struggle.
 
“I’m not saying we won’t struggle in the conditions, but at least with our experience in Dubai, we have a bit more idea of what to expect, and I’m confident we have sorted out our overheating problems. I think we’re probably better prepared than many others, so I am expecting quite a bit of attrition from now on.”
 
In the meantime, it remains a VW trilogy at the head of the car class.  Former world rally champion Carlos Sainz has extended his lead in this, the 30th Dakar Rally (and the first held outside Africa), after winning the eighth stage.
He now leads teammate Giniel De Villiers by nearly 11 minutes, with their colleague Mark Miller remaining in third place. Record nine-times and defending champion, Stéphane Peterhansel (Mitsubishi) withdrew on Friday with a faulty engine.

Originally known as the Paris-Dakar, the Dakar Rally has been staged in Africa since 1978, but last year’s event was cancelled on the eve of the start after terrorists killed seven people in the area and made direct threats to event organisers, hence the move to South America.
 
The new event is taking competitors 9500km (including 5600km of special stages) from Buenos Aires to Valparaiso in Chile and back (January 3-17), via the Andes Mountains and the Atacama Desert, said to be the driest place on earth. The event will travel to a height of 4700m, the highest in the rally’s 31-year history.
 
Garland/Suzuki and Wallentheim/Ohlsson are driving two Isuzu D-Max utes, hand-built in Garland’s Sydney workshop. They put out 160kW of power (up 33 per cent on the standard vehicle) and 500Nm of torque (@2000rpm; up 39 per cent).
 
Their results so far:
Day One:  Garland/Suzuki 51st O/R; Wallentheim/Ohlsson 67th O/R
Day Eight: Garland/Suzuki 16th O/R; Wallentheim/Ohlsson 50th.
 
Only 337 of the 500 bikes, quads, cars and trucks that started in Buenos Aries on January 3 remain in competition for the second week (pending today’s retirements).
 
Stage Nine: Total 537km; special (competitive) 449km.
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