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With the final paperwork done and dusted, there are just two sleeps to go before Australia’s Isuzu Motorsports’ team lines up for a start in the 2013 Dakar Rally.

Bruce Garland and Harry Suzuki (NSW) will drive a 2012 Isuzu D-MAX ute in the event, while Adrian Di Lallo (WA) and Steve Riley (Vic) are in the reworked 2008 model that took Garland/Suzuki to 11th outright in the 2009 Dakar.

The two crews have each spent around seven hours completing their final pre-race checks for the gruelling two-week cross-country rally at a specially built facility beside the Pacific Ocean in Lima, Peru.

“I couldn’t believe it when Adrian and Steve said they were there for seven hours yesterday, but we’ve just spent about the same amount of time,” says Garland.

This is the first time Lima has hosted the start of the event that has been running in South America since 2009. Terrorist threats, which cancelled the 2008 event, forced organisers to find an alternative from the traditional African home that gave the rally its name.

“The people of Lima have really turned it on,” Garland says.

“They’ve built this huge area [Circuito de Playas at Magdalena beach], a mini village, for all the documentation and vehicle checks, as well as the official start. It’s been designed to be really spectator-friendly so the crowds are huge. It’s time-consuming to get through it all but the atmosphere is fantastic.”

Garland and the team flew to Peru last week and once they collected the cars and service vehicles from customs, have spent their days making their final preparations for the race which will take them from the start in Lima (January 5) through Argentina and finally to the finish in Santiago, Chile (January 20) – a distance of around 8600km.

“It’s been a bit frantic trying to get everything ready. Once the race starts you don’t have time to really change anything too much, so it’s really important that we get everything as perfect as we can before we go.

“We did a test yesterday and everything is working well – us and the cars! We went up to around 3000m so it was a good way to acclimatise and do some tweaking for the altitude, plus settle the nerves a bit.

“Now we’re just going to do the final packing, have a bit of a relax and get two good nights’ of sleep before we go. We’ve been so busy working and trying to get the body clocks re-set till now, but there’s nothing much more we can do. We just want to get out there now, and get a result.”

This is Garland’s first run at the world’s toughest cross-country rally since crashing off a sand dune in 2011 and fracturing a vertebra. Two months later he had a heart attack in Melbourne and had five bypasses done by the surgical team at Monash Heart.

While Steve Riley has done the event before, with another Australian team, this will be driver Adrian Di Lallo’s first attempt. The Garland/Suzuki car is carrying race number 330, while Di Lallo/Riley are in car 439.

The Dakar Rally starts this Saturday with a timed special stage of just 13km to determine final starting order, before full competition begins on Sunday with 242km of timed racing. Lima is 16 hours behind Australia (Australian Eastern Daylight Time).
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