The Isuzu Motorsports Isuzu D-MAX ute that tackled the 2011 Dakar Rally is in action in the Middle East this week – but Bruce Garland is not behind the wheel.
Garland is still recovering at his Sydney home after heart surgery last month, so he has hired one of the Middle East’s best offroad racing drivers to contest the 2011 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge.
The Challenge, formerly known as the UAE Desert Challenge, is being run through the Liwa Desert and the Moreeb area of the Empty Quarter, from April 2-7. It’s now the opening round of the 2011 FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup, rather than the final round, and Garland has contested it six times.
“We always planned to do this event because Isuzu is starting to have a very strong presence there, so we hoped us racing over there would help the brand,” says Garland.
“The other reason, which is equally important for us, is that we’re getting lots of enquiries from drivers over there who are interested in us building and running cars for them in future Dakar rallies. We want to show them at close range just how strong and fast the Isuzu is in an event like this.
“Obviously the original plan was for me to be driving, but injuring my back at Dakar in January put paid to that idea, so we had already approached this driver even before I had my heart surgery.
“Harry [Suzuki, Garland’s navigator] and I first competed in this event in 1997 and we met Yahya Al Helei then. We couldn’t believe how quick he was in what was a really ordinary car, and we’ve kept in touch ever since because he’s such a good bloke.”
Garland says when he first contacted Al Helei and his co-driver Khalid Al Kendi, they were committed to another team for the race, and it is only recently that they were able to get out of that arrangement, and into the deal with the Australian team.
Al Helei is aiming for victory, but knows he has a hard battle ahead, given the competition. But he has the runs on the board: numerous top five finishes in the event and several podiums in recent years. He also has the benefit of familiarity with the terrain that the event will cover. He heads out into the desert later today in eighth outright, after the running of the super special stage, and is seventh in class.
The event is open to motorbikes, quad-bikes, four wheel and truck competitors. Among those competing are Dakar regulars such as Stéphane Peterhansel, Jean-Louis Schlesser and Leonid Novitskiy on four wheels and Marc Coma, Francisco Lopez and David Fretigne on two.
Suzuki and two of Garland’s regular mechanics are in Abu Dhabi to maintain the Isuzu during the event. They flew over last week, meeting up with the D-MAX that had been shipped straight to Abu Dhabi from Argentina after the Dakar campaign.
Liz Swanton, Media Liaison
Isuzu Motorsports / Garland Motorsports
Telephone 02 9771 1277 International + 61 2 9771 1277
Mobile 0417 232 643 International + 61 417 232 643
Liz Swanton Media Liaison Isuzu Motorsports / Garland MotorsportsP: 02 9771 1277 International + 61 2 9771 1277
M: 0417 232 643 International + 61 417 232 643