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Australasian Safari: Dakar-Star Bruce Garland completes shakedown.



The long drive from Sydney to Perth is complete and five-time Australasian Safari winner Bruce Garland is ready to race. Garland, navigator Harry Suzuki and the Isuzu Motorsports crew used the trip to give their brand-new Isuzu D-MAX ute a thorough shakedown before the 2010 event gets underway this weekend. Their aim goes beyond another trophy in the cabinet - they want the first outright victory for a diesel.

The 2010 Australasian Safari kicks off in Perth tonight (Friday) with a ceremonial start in the CBD before the crews head out to Southern Cross, 370km east of Perth on the road to Kalgoorlie. A Prologue to determine seeding order will be run there before the event gets underway in earnest on Sunday. The cross-country rally finishes in the southern WA coastal town of Esperance next Saturday, September 25, after covering 3600km.

"The car is unreal," says Garland who describes the journey across the outback as stunningly beautiful after all the rain so many areas have experienced.

"We did some speed testing on some private property near Broken Hill and got up to about 171kmh on the dirt but I think we can do better than that. It is a brand-new engine and I think we will get better top-end speed when everything settles in - but everything else is already light years ahead of the ute we had here last year.

"I think it’s going to be a very interesting event. I think our only weak spot would be the top-end speed. Everything else - acceleration, handling and so on - is just so much better, so it really depends on what the rally throws at us. We just can’t wait to get started now!"

Garland and Suzuki were third outright last year - and first diesel - in their 2010 Dakar-spec D-MAX. More than half that ute was built using original Isuzu production parts and was instantly recognisable as a production Isuzu D-MAX.

The new ute is lighter, faster and better handling than its predecessor but still based around the D-MAX’s steel cab, chassis frame and 3.0-litre turbo-diesel engine. Built by Garland and his team with the benefit of two years’ experience competing in the legendary Dakar Rally, it is much closer to standard than many other off-road racing vehicles.

Under the bonnet is a 3.0-litre turbo diesel Isuzu engine that has been tweaked to suit the purpose ahead. It produces approximately 630Nm of maximum torque and around 192kW of peak power, or an increase of 75 and 60 per cent, respectively, on the standard Isuzu D-MAX engine.

Garland has described the difference between his previous vehicles and the new ute as that between a plane with a propeller and one with a jet engine. But he knows better than most that speed isn’t everything in cross-country rallies - vehicles also have to be extremely strong to put up with days of relentless punishment, and this D-MAX has been built to withstand the pressures of this event, and another much longer one.

That’s the 14-day Dakar Rally, the now South American-based enduro that Garland has contested twice before (2009 and 2010) and hopes to do again next January. Because he’s a proven competitor, the team’s entry for the 2011 Dakar has been accepted but the final deadline is looming, when the full commitment has to be made - and that can’t be done without the team finding some more sponsorship. A strong result in the Safari could help.

More than 100 competitors - including 25 in the auto division - will be contesting this year’s Safari. It’s the 25th year of the Aussie endurance adventure, which was first run in 1985 as the Wynn’s Safari. Garland first tackled the event in 1987. This year he is entered in Class A2.3, for ‘modified production’ 4WD recreational cross-country vehicles - diesel.

2010/09/17 | 08:46 CET | EDITOR: MR/HS/GARLAND











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