|Abu Dhabi DC: Top result for Al Helei and Garland Isuzu Motorsports in UAE.|
Australia´s Bruce Garland´s Dakar-spec Isuzu D-Max pickup has finished fourth outright in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, with a Middle Eastern crew taking the honours. The pickup contested the five-day, 1570 km event in the hands of experienced UAE driver Yahya Al Helei and his co-driver Khalid Al Kendi. Garland´s regular co-driver, Harry Suzuki, played team manager for the crew who also posted first in class and first four-cylinder diesel.
"It´s a sensational result and they did an excellent job," says Garland, who followed the event by phone and internet because he is still recovering after open-heart surgery last month. "They had a bit of a setback early in the race but managed to claw their way back from 18th to fourth. Without the early problem, or if the event had been a day longer, I´m sure they could have finished on the podium."
He added: "They were up against some pretty tough competition but Yahya did really well - especially given he´s never before driven a diesel, or a right-hand-drive or a vehicle with a sequential gearbox. It was a tough call but I knew he could do it - and he just loved the power of the Isuzu diesel engine."
"I´m extremely happy to finish fourth," says Al Helei. "Considering all the drivers ahead of me are extremely famous international drivers, it is an even bigger honour. The rally was very difficult, so my experience with UAE desert rallying was a big help."
Garland had always planned to do this event because Isuzu is starting to have a very strong presence in the region and having the racing ute in action would help the brand. There also has been a high level of interest from Middle East drivers in having Isuzu Motorsports build and manage cars for them in future Dakar rallies.
However, when the veteran driver injured his back in this year´s Dakar Rally, he quickly approached Al Helei, with whom he has been friends for many years and rates extremely highly, to take over the driving duties. The result in the Challenge proves the wisdom of his choice.
The team will hold a debrief when Suzuki and the technicians return from Abu Dhabi, to decide what´s next on the agenda in terms of events and requests for cars to be built. Garland is not expecting to race again before the Australasian Safari later this year.
2011/04/14 | 13:48 CET | ARTICLE: MR/SY/SWANTON