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The first stage will be forgotten in a few days – what matters for the Australian Isuzu Motorsports’ team is that Dakar 2013 is finally underway.

After a 13km timed special stage near Pisco, three hours south of Lima, to determine starting order for the real racing which begins tomorrow, Bruce Garland and Harry Suzuki (2012 Isuzu D-MAX; car 330) posted 62nd fastest time out of the 153 starters. Teammates Adrian Di Lallo and Steve Riley (Red Earth Motorsport, Isuzu D-MAX; car 439) came in 74th fastest.

Service crewmember Richie Hayes is in a MAN truck, racing in the truck category with two Spanish drivers. They posted 53rd fastest time of the 75 starters.

“It wasn’t a great result, but you don’t win this event on Day One – day 14 is the one that counts!” Garland says.

“I made a few mistakes. We had too much pressure in the tyres and too much fuel in the tank, and that all worked to slow us down, but the car is on song so far. Tomorrow will be the real test.

“The other issue I had was that my back keeps telling my brain to slow down over the crests so I need to re-train my brain not to listen. My back is fine.”

Garland fractured a vertebra during the 2011 event and then had a heart attack and five bypasses at Melbourne’s MonashHeart two months later. He missed the 2012 event and is keen to repeat or better his 2009 result, when he and Suzuki finished 11th outright and first diesel ute home.

For the rest of today’s results in the ‘car’ division, the stage was won by former World Rally Championship star Carlos Sainz in a brand-new buggy built by Baja specialists, Demon Jefferies. Last year’s winner of the car division, Stéphane Peterhansel posted sixth fastest time in a works Mini.

The special stage came after the 250km drive down the Peruvian coastline, and the gala start at the specially built Dakar facility in Lima’s coastal district of Magdalena Del Mar. There were crowds of people at the start – including the country’s president – and along the route to Pisco. There were also big crowds on the sand dunes that lined the special stage.

Garland says there were some large sand dunes for the competitors to climb during the stage, as well as some smaller dunes and high-speed areas, but it was fairly straightforward and not too taxing. Several competitors, however, had problems early, including his American mate Robby Gordon, who had some clutch issues with his Hummer and was stuck in the stage for a considerable time.

Competition begins in earnest tomorrow with 242km of timed racing, and 85km of transport from Pisco to the stage and back again.

The competitors have two nights in the Dakar bivouac near the city, which is just nine metres above sea level. It’s the capital of the Pisco Province, well known for its vineyards. The region has given its name to Peru’s national drink, a fiery white grape brandy.

The area is normally visited because of the concentration of marine animals and birds at the Paracas National Reservation, also known as the Peruvian Galapagos.

The Pisco origins are from one of the major ancient civilizations in Peru, the Paracas culture. Due to its ease of access, and its crossroads to the Andes, the Spanish considered making Pisco the capital, before they decided on Lima.

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