A blown turbo-charger has forced the retirement of the remaining Garland MotorSports Isuzu D-MAX ute competing in the 2010 Dakar Rally.

Swedish duo Pelle Wallentheim and Olle Ohlsson started the 12th stage of the event in 51st place after a disappointing day yesterday but had made up ground to 23rd after 21km of competition.

However around the 40km mark, with absolutely no warning, the turbo blew, relegating the crew to the side of the track until other competitors had passed and they could crawl safely to a checkpoint.

“We had been going so well and then this happened,” said Wallentheim, admitting he was feeling quite empty.

“It was a new turbo. The team changed it on the rest day over the weekend as part of a planned maintenance schedule for the second part of the event, so it shouldn’t have been a problem, but we don’t know what has caused it. We’re just devastated – so much hard work for all of us and no result.”

Wallentheim and Ohlsson returned to the 21km checkpoint, which was where the special stage met the local highway. Several members of the Garland MotorSports team were there, taking charge of the stricken D-MAX to transport it through to the overnight camp.

It was heartbreaking news for the crew after a solid year of work, especially as team boss Bruce Garland and co-driver Harry Suzuki had to retire from the competition this time last week when a freak accident smashed their radiator.

“Obviously we’ll be trying to work out what happened with the turbo,” said Garland, “because we’ve never had a problem like this before.

“A few days back the guys got a lot of dust through the engine. That may have had something to do with it, but I honestly don’t know, and won’t know, until we’ve had a chance to strip it down.

“For now, we’ll just clean up, pack up and head back to Buenos Aires. It’s beyond disappointing, given how well we did last year, but this is Dakar and things happen. It’s a cruel sport and this is the toughest event of them all.”

Stage 12 was a massive stage, 790km in total, including the special (competition) section that was 470km long. Just 59 cars of the 134 that started the event in Buenos Aires (of a total field of 362) started today.
When it finished, it was the VW Touareg trio at the top of the order: Carlos Sainz, Nasser Al-Attiyah and Mark Miller. The same trio are leading the event, with two stages remaining before the official finish in Buenos Aires on January 17. Of last year’s podium, (Giniel De Villiers, Miller, Robby Gordon), defending champion De Villiers (VW) is seventh and Gordon (Hummer) eighth.

The Garland MotorSports/Tubus Racing teams have contested the 2010 event in Isuzu D-MAX 4x4 utes, 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. They were competing in Class T1.2, which is modified 4WD diesel.

In 2009, the Australians 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. The Swedes finished 44th outright last year and, after the retirement of Garland and Suzuki, were trying to repeat the Australians’ 2009 results for the Isuzu team.

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. 
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