The Isuzu D-MAX of Bruce Garland and Harry Suzuki has passed its one-day pre-Dakar test run with flying colours, after rejoining the 2012 Australasian Safari for that specific purpose.
The Isuzu Motorsports duo was forced out of the event on Day Two (Monday, September 24) after clipping a gatepost and damaging the chassis of their 2012 D-MAX, which has been built to contest the 2013 Dakar Rally.
With no time for real repairs before the rest of the day’s competition, and the racing ute due to leave Australia on October 5, to be ready for the January event, Garland and Suzuki made the difficult decision to withdraw from the Safari, ending their dream of chasing a sixth win.
They took the day off to repair the D-MAX and to fit all the Dakar-spec components they had with them, then signed on this morning for another day in the Western Australian desert, to test and tune the vehicle.
“Dakar had to be the priority, given how tight the timing is, so while we’re really disappointed we didn’t get a result in this event, we’re pleased with what we’ve achieved today,” Garland says.
“We used the day to tune the new shocks and we still managed to post sixth fastest time in the first stage. In the second stage we did about 10 shock absorber changes on the way, and we’re now really happy with the set-up.
“We didn’t finish that stage, because we stopped to help our mate, Adrian Di Lallo, who is driving one of our old Dakar D-MAXs. He was running in second place when he broke his steering, so we helped him back to the bivouac. Now we’re just going to relax tonight and then start heading back to Perth in the morning to put the Dakar engine in the car, and finish all the preparations for next week.
“It is frustrating not to have finished the Safari but I think we’ve managed to get a lot done ready for South America. We’re really happy with the car, and it was good for me to get back in and drive hard today, after the disappointment of Monday. I’m feeling confident and comfortable again, so that’s a good result!”
This year was Garland’s 16th start in the Safari and is only the second time he has been forced to withdraw. He was running third at the time, having just gained a place when a rival team from Venezuela dropped off the pace with mechanical issues.
The five-time Safari winner has come back into competition after an enforced lay-off of more than a year, the result of fracturing a vertebra during the 2011 Dakar Rally, and then having a heart attack while on holiday two months later. He had five bypasses done by the specialist team at Melbourne’s MonashHeart.
The next event for the veteran duo is the 2013 Dakar, which will run through Chile, Argentina and Peru next January. They’re hoping to improve on their best result in the world’s most demanding motorsport event – ninth outright and first diesel home during the 2009 Dakar. While the car is en route for South America next week, Garland and Suzuki and their crew do not fly out until late December.
The 2012 Australasian Safari is an eight-day endurance race that takes competitors on offroad tracks through the outback of Western Australia. One of the toughest and most challenging motorsport events in the world, it will end in the north-western coastal city of Geraldton on Saturday after the crews cover around 3500km.