Tuesday, January 12th, 2010
Sand, dunes and heavy-duty ‘camel grass’ combined to make the last stage in Chile’s Atacama Desert a tough day for the remaining Garland MotorSports Isuzu D-MAX ute competing in the 2010 Dakar Rally.

Stage Nine from Copiapó to La Serena originally included a 338km special (competitive) section but that was reduced to 170km because of fog (a safety issue for medical and event observation helicopters). The transport section at the end of the stage was 209km for a total distance of 379km but the reduced distance didn’t make for an easy day.

“On the whole we went quite well, all things considered, apart from losing 20 minutes at the start of the stage,” said D-MAX driver, Pelle Wallentheim.

“Our tyres heated up very quickly once we got into the stage and we got bogged. Once we sorted that out, we were okay, but it was a tough stage. Lots of sand, lots of dunes, and lots of camel grass.

“That stuff is so tough to drive on. It’s like rocks. You want to drive around it if you can, but in some places it was too close together. And in some places it was up to a metre high, and you just could not avoid it.

“There were also some very steep dunes made of very soft sand that were hard to get through. There are a lot of cars and trucks still stuck out there.”

Aside from the general difficulties of the stage, Wallentheim and co-driver Olle Ohlsson had no problems. They say their Australian-built and serviced Isuzu is running perfectly.

The Swedish duo’s Australian teammates, Bruce Garland and Harry Suzuki are now part of the service crew, having been forced out of competition late last week when a freak accident smashed the radiator, causing the engine to overheat. Because the Australians left the desert rally route to reach camp safely, they were excluded.

Today’s stage was won by Nasser Al-Attiyah ahead of Carlos Sainz with defending champion Giniel De Villiers in third, all three members of the VW Touareg factory team. Overall, though, it’s still Sainz in first with Al-Attiyah second and Mark Miller, also in a VW, in third. Stéphane Peterhansel (BMW) is fourth and De Villiers seventh. US NASCAR star Robby Gordon (Hummer), who shared the podium last year with De Villiers and Miller, is 10th.

Tomorrow (tonight, Australian time), the Garland MotorSports/Tubus Racing team will tackle a 238km special stage between La Serena and the Chilean capital, Santiago. The day starts with 112km of liaison (transport), before the 10th competition stage winds its way along narrow agricultural-type tracks. There’s a second lengthy (236km) liaison to the overnight halt.

Santiago is located in Chile’s central valley at an elevation of 520m above sea level and is one of Latin America’s most modern commercial centres.

Only 211 vehicles started the ninth stage, of the 362 vehicles which left Buenos Aires on New Year’s Day. Tomorrow’s stage is the last in Chile before the cavalcade turns east to return to Argentina for the last four stages and the official finish in BA on January 17.

Wallentheim and Ohlsson are driving an Isuzu D-MAX 4x4 ute, 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 are competing in Class T1.2, which is modified 4WD diesel.

In 2009, the Swedes finished 44th outright. Their Australian colleagues had 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 Swedish duo is now chasing those honours 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.

There will be regular updates on the team’s performance on the official Isuzu Ute Australia website (www.isuzuute.com.au) and also on the SBS website (www.sbs.com.au/dakar); SBS ONE will show daily highlights of Dakar 2010, every night at 6:00pm AEDT to January 18 and then a one-hour Dakar review from 11am to 12noon on Sunday, January 24.

TIMES: STAGE NINE (all correct at time of writing)

1. Nasser Al-Attiyah (VW): 1h 59m 18s
2. Carlos Sainz (VW): + 6m 09s
3. De Villiers (VW): + 7m 48s

24. Pelle Wallentheim/Olle Ohlsson: + 1h 55m 04s

TIMES: OVERALL (all correct at time of writing)

1. Carlos Sainz (VW): 33h 33m 40s
2. Nasser Al-Attiyah (VW): +8m 26s
3. Mark Miller (VW): + 27m 17s

26. Pelle Wallentheim/Olle Ohlsson: + 23h 17m 24s

Contact Profile

Liz Swanton Media Liaison – Garland MotorSports

P: (612) 9771 1277
M: 0417 232 643
W: www.isuzuute.com.au


A tough day for the remaining Garland MotorSports Isuzu D-MAX ute competing in the 2010 Dakar Rally.


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