Despite being ready and waiting at the Stage 4 start line, the Dakar Race Director has not allowed Isuzu Motorsports to restart Dakar. Isuzu Motorsports did not make the cut off time to start Stage 3 and as such, were forbidden from starting Stage 4.
Just 80 kilometres from reaching the end of Dakar’s longest stage, 518 kilometres of hostile terrain in Stage 2, the Isuzu Motorsports team encountered a minor mechanical issue that prevented them from completing the stage. Before calling for assistance from their service crew (T4), driver Adrian Di Lallo and co-driver Harry Suzuki sought official advice from Paris via satellite phone on what assistance is permissible on the stage. As a result, T4 assistance from their service crew was not pursued. Following the official advice, Di Lallo and Suzuki endured twenty hours in the dessert in harsh conditions waiting for recovery and subsequently missed the cut off time to restart on Stage 3.
“The trucks and cars were on separate stages that day, and our stage was rough – after 50 cars had raced over it, it was chopped up. It would’ve been tricky for our service truck to reach us, but we were just a hundred metres from an escape road so our crew could have come to us that way to assist, but we were told they were not allowed,” Di Lallo explained.
“The inconsistencies are frustrating in that other competitors received T4 assistance on the stage and have been able to continue on with their Dakar. Had our crew come to assist, we would have had plenty of time to make the required repairs and get to the Bivouac well before the cut off time which, when I was asked by the official in Paris over sat phone, is exactly what I told them.
“The car’s all good and we were there, ready to race. We’d be racing right now if we didn’t call Paris first and called our crew instead. It’s disappointing – I try to play by the rules but it goes to show that in this game you’re better off begging for forgiveness than asking for permission.”
The team travelled 800 kilometres to Copiapo (Stage 4) Bivouac to meet with FIA Race Stewards to appeal the Race Director’s decision. The appeal was upheld. There is an option to enter a protest, however, that will not allow them to restart tomorrow and could take a few days with no guarantee of a reversal of the appeal. The team will spend the night in the Copiapo Bivouac and make their way to Buenos Aires in the morning to arrange the logistics for their return journey home.
On Stage 2, of the 135 cars that started the stage, just 60 made to the finish in time. On Stage 3, 100 cars started the stage and 85 finished. Stage 4 is currently being run and 96 cars were at the start line.
The route and challenge of Dakar attracts top rally drivers from all over the world. This year, a total of 665 competitors from 53 different nationalities entered the event, with only half that number expected to cross the finish line in Buenos Aires on January 17.
Source: Isuzu Motorsports Media Release