|Australia 2011: Garland and Suzuki takes podium at RB Silver City 600 rally.|
Australian Dakar Rally veteran Bruce Garland has finished on the podium in his first offroad race since fracturing a vertebra and having major heart surgery. Garland and long-time navigator Harry Suzuki were third outright (and first in class?) in the inaugural ARB Silver City 600 Cross Country Rally, run near the far western city of Broken Hill over the weekend of November 5-6.
The Sydney-based duo has not raced since Garland fractured a vertebra during the Dakar Rally in Chile in January. Two months later he suffered a heart attack while on holidays in Melbourne and was operated on at MonashHeart, having five bypasses in the process. Since then he has been focussed on a "come back".
"I´m not a star yet, but I"m definitely getting brighter," laughs Garland, admitting that a big part of competing in the event was to find out if he could still "do it", given he is already focussed on another Dakar run in 2013. "It was 40 degrees out there on Saturday, which meant about 48 degrees in the cabin, and that was a good test of everything the tyres, the cooling system, and me. Everything we need to work right in the heat of a South American summer worked perfectly at Broken Hill!
"Some of the technical guys from Toyo Tyres came out with us and we did a lot of tyre testing over the weekend, and everyone"s happy with that. Obviously we would have liked to win, but in the scheme of things, finishing on the podium was a great result."
Garland admits he and Suzuki were hampered by being first car on the road, but contrary to what might have been considered to be a problem in the outback, dust was not an issue.
"They"ve had so much rain out there, it"s really green and beautiful but the grass is so long. I don"t think anyone had run the track for a couple of days before the event started, so we were trying to find our way in all this long grass and we got lost a couple of times. You had to have the skills of an indigenous tracker to find your way through it, so that slowed us down but all credit to the guys who came home ahead of us. They did a good job."
Steve Olholm and Gordon Trigg were first in a Mitsubishi Pajero; Darren Green and Wayne Smith second in a Mitsubishi Triton. Garland and Suzuki drove the Isuzu D-Max ute that they raced in this year"s Dakar but it is not the only one they have entered in the event. Their Isuzu Motorsport operation also ran the D-Max that took Garland and Suzuki to 11th outright in the 2009 Dakar. It was crewed by Australasian Safari regulars, Adrian Dilallo and Rob Masi, who finished fifth outright.
The third ute in the team that run in the 2010 Dakar and crewed for the weekend by Garland"s brothers Phillip Kay and David Garland did not finish, after a rollover at the end of Day One. Next up for Garland is a special drive day and picnic in Melbourne at the end of this month which he has organised as a "thank you" to the team at MonashHeart. Already signed up for a run in the Dakar ute on the day are the two surgeons who operated on him in March.
2011/11/10 | 10:34 CET | ARTICLE: MR/SY/SWANTON