|SA-Dakar: Steady start in the Dakar Rally for Australia´s Isuzu Team.|
The plan was "slow and steady", but Australia´s Isuzu MotorSports offroad racing team has already gained some ground after the first competitive stage in the 2011 Dakar Rally. The event started on New Year´s Day in Buenos Aires, but the first timed competitive stage 222km sandwiched between 566km of transport sections was run last night Australian time. That was from the city of Victoria, 377km north-west of Buenos Aires, to Córdoba, the second largest city in Argentina.
The Isuzu D-MAX ute of Sydney-based Dakar veterans Bruce Garland and Harry Suzuki is carrying the number 322 and started as Car 22, before finishing in 19th position at the end of the day. They came home ahead of two of the six official BMW factory team X3s: Car 313 and Car 321, their nearest rival, Stephan Schott.
"He (Schott) held us up for ages in the dust on the fast section, probably for 50km or so, so we lost some time, but then we got past him," Garland says. "Today´s stage was the same first stage we ran last year. It was dusty and very fast in the first section, and then got tight and twisty through the mountains. Beautiful country out there and thousands of spectators! It poured with rain at one point, so that made things tricky, but we weren´t trying to do anything more today than just come to terms with the new engine, new shocks and the new Toyo tires. Everything is really working well, so far."
Garland says there is talk amongst the field about the earthquake that hit northern Argentina over the weekend and how it could affect the rally route. The magnitude-7 earthquake struck about 150km northeast of the provincial capital of Santiago del Estero (see route map) on Saturday morning, but its epicentre was so deep (563km) that it gave local towns only a light shake.
"I wonder if we would know if there was an earthquake, or any aftershocks, given how much we get bumped around in the car anyway!" Garland laughs. "This could be the first rally run on an earthquake! But obviously the organisers won´t take chances. They will work out what´s going on and come up with an answer. We´re due in the area in two days´ time."
2011/01/03 | 00:40 CET | ARTICLE: MR/SWANTON