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Cross country racer Bruce Garland has reached the top 10 as the 2013 Australasian Safari notches up its fourth day of competition.

Competing under the banner of Team Toyo and their own company, Isuzu Motorsports, the Sydney-based veteran and long-time navigator Harry Suzuki gained two places to 10th outright yesterday after 289km of outback racing between Gascoyne Junction and the town of Carnarvon, 900km north of Perth.

According to event organisers, most competitors found the first stage, which was a rough rocky crossing of the Gascoyne River and a run along the western edge of the Kennedy Ranges, a huge challenge.

The second stage was hard and fast, forcing riders and drivers to tackle demanding red sand dunes before hitting some traditional Safari country with fence to fence tracks, well runs, windmills, tanks and wide open clay pans demanding accurate navigation.

Garland agrees with both descriptions, but says his nearly stock-standard Isuzu D-MAX ute, and its Toyo tyres, coped admirably with the conditions.

“The car is working better and better by the day, and the driver is getting better at driving it! It’s certainly a different kettle of fish to our Dakar D-MAX and it has taken me a bit of time to get used to it, but it is really nice to drive.

“There is some lovely country around here – when you get time to have a quick look – but the conditions are really trying. A lot of people are pushing too hard for what they are up against, and they’re getting lots of punctures or finding things are starting to break because of the wear and tear.

“I’m not into making wild predictions, but I think we can gain a few more places before the end of the event. That’s what we’re aiming for.”

Garland, who is returning to racing two months after surgery for prostate cancer, says he is tired at the end of each day, but feeling much better than when the event started. He’s particularly enjoying Carnarvon, where the event will also be based tonight.

“This place is famous for its fishing industry and I can tell you the Gascoyne prawns are fantastic! We’re certainly eating well. We have another night here because today’s competition is effectively a big loop around Carnarvon.”

Today’s racing is made up of three stages – 200km, 141.21km and 79.41km – before the event begins making its way south again, to finish at Geraldton on Friday, after covering nearly 3200km of outback Western Australia.

The D-MAX Garland and Suzuki are driving is almost a showroom variant. It has around 20 per cent more power and torque (156kW; 456Nm) than the standard model and is entered in the international T2 class that covers 4WD vehicles with some minor modifications.

The 2013 Australasian Safari is in its 28th year. Garland and Suzuki are contesting the seven-day endurance race for the 17th time, and have won it five times.
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