Australian Rally veteran Bruce Garland is aiming for his sixth Australasian Safari win later this month.
The 27th running of the competition will include 3000km of off-road terrain surrounding Geraldton on the Western Australian coast.
Garland and long-term co-driver Harry Suzuki will race a heavily modified Isuzu D-MAX in the event, at the wheel of which he hopes to be the first-ever diesel-fuelled winner.
He has entered the event 15 times previously, most recently placing third in 2010 driving a previous-generation D-MAX racer.
Garland has won the event five times in total, including a hat-trick of victories in ‘01, ‘02, and ‘03 driving a Holden Jackaroo - also an Isuzu design.
The Safari is the second local competition outing for his new D-MAX this year, after finishing first in class in the the Finke Desert Race in June.
Garland however considers both events mere shakedowns for his January assault on the 2013 Dakar Rally through Chile, Argentina and Peru.
The 2009 Dakar event became Garland’s career highlight, finishing an incredible 11th outright in a production-based D-MAX.
This latest D-MAX is the fifth constructed in his Sydney workshop, and is the first to be based around the all-new 2012 production model launched locally in June.
Garland rates his new D-MAX as lighter, stronger, faster and better handling than its predecessor but it continues to use production-based body, chassis, and 3.0 litre turbodiesel engine.
In Safari tune, this engine produces 181kW and 589Nm, a significant increase from the 130kW and 380Nm production version.
“We’ve really drawn on all our existing Dakar experience to build this ute and it’s a ripper," Garland said.
"We love doing the Safari and we’ve had a lot of success there, so Harry and I are really looking forward to taking the new D-MAX into battle and hopefully coming away with another win."
Garland’s busy 2012 schedule comes after a treacherous 2011, with a fractured vertebra causing a DNF in last year’s Dakar, followed by a heart attack two months later which required quintuple bypass surgery.
The 2012 Australasian Safari will run for eight days between September 21 and 29th.
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