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An Australian team is chasing the ‘Holy Grail’ of off-road racing, with a two-car assault on the legendary Dakar Rally next January.

Multiple Australian Safari winner, Bruce Garland, and his Sydney-based team, is building two Isuzu D-Max 4WD utes (previously marketed here as the Holden Rodeo) to tackle the gruelling event which, due to terrorist concerns in Africa, is being run in South America next year.

One of the cars is for Garland and long-time navigator, Harry Suzuki, while the other is being built for experienced Swedish rally duo, Pelle Wallentheim and Olle Ohlsson.

Garland will use the ‘Condo 750’ cross-country rally in central western NSW over the Easter weekend as a shakedown for the prototype vehicle, before building the second car. The team will then contest the Finke Desert Race (NT, June) and the Australasian Safari (WA, August) and at least one international event before the Dakar.

“I’ve always wanted to do Dakar with a team who will do it properly and have fun too,” says Garland, who competed in the 1998 Dakar Rally with a French navigator, but failed to finish.

“It’s six weeks out of your life, so you’ve got to be with people you know and trust. We’ve got the Garland Rally Team back together, plus we have Pelle and Olle involved. They were the catalyst to get this all happening and we share the same focus – but we’ll have some fun too!”

Garland, who has won the Australian Safari five times, and the Condobolin event three times, has the backing of Isuzu Thailand and Isuzu Japan for the two-year deal, which also includes Dakar 2010 and a number of long-distance events in Asia next year.

The Swedish crew will run under their own name (Tubus Racing) for all events, but the Garland Rally Team will do all vehicle preparation and servicing for both cars.

Garland and Wallentheim first discussed the idea last year when Garland managed the Swedish team’s Isuzu Vehi-Cross in the 2007 Australian Safari in WA.

The pair settled on the turbo-diesel D-Max for their Dakar efforts, but the three-litre, four-cylinder vehicle is no longer stock-standard. The road-going D-Max puts out 120kW of power and 360Nm of torque – but the Garland team is aiming for up to 20 per cent more.

The Easter race at Condobolin covers around 800km, including 550km of competitive special stages. It’s open to motorbikes, buggies, 2WD prototypes and 4WDs. Garland will run the D-Max and Wallentheim the Vehi-Cross.

Garland is one of Australia's most experienced off-road competitors and has raced successfully in many of the world's toughest off-road endurance rallies, as well as being involved in vehicle preparation for some of the sport's best teams. He and Suzuki began competing together in 1993.

Wallentheim and Ohlsson also have years of enduro and rally experience behind them, on both two wheels and four, with Ohlsson tackling the Dakar twice on a motorcycle.

Wallentheim has a particularly important reason for doing the event, aside from fulfilling a dream. He is in remission from a rare type of bone cancer and wants to prove that cancer does not stop you from achieving your goals.

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