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Slow and steady was the order of the day for the Australian/Swedish rally team, after Day Nine of the demanding Dakar Rally.
Australian team leader Bruce Garland says he and Pelle Wallentheim are mindful of the two heavy days that lie ahead: they’re long days, at high altitudes and temperatures, with much of the competitive sections being run in the Atacama Desert. There is also the issue on Wednesday’s stage, of whether the service trucks will make it through to the overnight stop, which makes driving without error even more imperative.
Garland and co-driver Harry Suzuki (Garland MotorSports) have dropped back two places to 18th while Wallentheim and co-driver Olle Ohlsson (Tubus Racing) have gained 11 places, now in 42nd outright, after finishing the stage 30th and 44th respectively.
“It was a long, hard day today, and very rough,” says Garland.
“I think we were on the road for about 11 hours, with over eight hours of actual racing. But we have two absolute marathons ahead, so if people wanted to pass us today, we let them. We both know what we’re aiming for – we want to finish.
“We can’t believe some of the people around us. They’re in a hurry to pass you, and they bash and crash their way through, and then a few kays down the road, there they are, fixing a puncture, or pulling themselves out of somewhere they have got stuck.
“You go a bit further, they pass you again, and then sure enough, they’re stopped at the side of the road again. We didn’t have any dramas at all.”
Garland says today’s route followed the coast and offered some spectacular scenery – sheer cliffs and pounding waves – then they turned inland.
“We had heard about these sanddunes we were going to be crossing. We could see these clouds in the distance and then suddenly, there were the dunes – with the top of them in the clouds! They were about 1000m high!”
The next two stages take the crews into the Atacama Desert, famed as being the driest place on earth. While today’s stage from La Serena to Copiapo was long (Total distance of 517km, with 429km of competitive), tomorrow’s will be a marathon.
The round trip from Copiapo to Copiapo is 686km with 666km of competition – even the organiser’s notes describe it as “simply the longest and most difficult of the rally”. Those notes go on to say:
“Even the leading specialists will be faced with something new. The Chilean dunes are veritable mountains of sand and pilots must learn to climb and descend their sides over more than one kilometre. Another unknown: due to the extreme heat of the region, no-one knows exactly how the sand will behave.”
The next day (Wednesday) is 680km with the special stage against the clock being 215km. All competitors – and their service vehicles – will be travelling at altitudes close to 4000m. Competitors must carry as many spares as they can manage – in case the service trucks don’t make it through to the overnight stop in time.
At the front end of the car class, it’s still a VW trilogy with a slight change in the order.
Former world rally champion Carlos Sainz is still leading, but second and third have changed places. Mark Miller is now in second while Giniel de Villiers had a very tough day and is now third outright. On the stage itself, it was Sainz and Miller with Robby Gordon’s Hummer the third fastest.
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