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After seven days and around 4300km of competition in the 2008 Australasian Safari, the Garland Motor Sport/Tubus Racing team is now preparing for their next event – the UAE Desert Challenge in late October.
 
After finishing third and fourth outright in the Safari, and first in their respective classes, Bruce Garland and Harry Suzuki (Isuzu D-MAX) and Pelle Wallentheim and Olle Ohlsson (Isuzu VehiCross) took a day off to recover, before beginning preparations for their trip to Dubai.
 
The team had driven two D-MAXs from Sydney to Perth, the prototype for Garland and Suzuki to compete in, using the Safari as a full shakedown, and the second car as prepared for Wallentheim and Ohlsson’s Desert Challenge and Dakar campaigns. This week, the team is doing a final check on the cars before they are put on a cargo vessel to be shipped from Perth to Dubai.
 
Then, as Pelle and Olle fly home to Sweden, Bruce and the team will drive back to Sydney where they will finish building a third D-MAX. This will be the car Bruce and Harry drive in the Dakar with the prototype as a back-up, and this third vehicle will be shipped direct to Argentina once it is finished.
 
“It just doesn’t stop,” says Bruce, “but it’s all good. We learned a lot from the Safari that we are able to translate into both cars, and into the third one we are building.
 
“We got the speed, handling and reliability sorted on the Safari and we found out how good the D-MAX is in wet weather and in big sanddunes, during the event and while we were travelling over beforehand.
 
“Pelle did a lot of testing of his car on the way over to Perth and he is very happy with it. He loves the car and the gearbox and we both found the D-MAX much better in the sand than we were expecting. We really feel we have the right package for Dakar.”
 
The UAE Desert Challenge will effectively be stage two of testing for the D-MAX with everything focussed on the car’s readiness for Dakar.
 
“If we don’t break anything in Dubai and if the car copes with 50° heat, then we will know we are ready for Argentina,” Bruce says.
 
Olle says he and Pelle are looking forward to driving the new D-MAX, saying it will take them to a new level.
 
“We had a very good race in the Safari and we’re feeling very pleased with ourselves. That was our second race together. We came third in the Condo 750 and now fourth in the Safari, which is a much bigger event.
 
“We’ve still got a lot to learn but we have learned a huge amount this week. We didn’t damage the car, we were matching the speed of the other more powerful cars. I think we even won two stages!
 
“We’re working well as a team and we are working well with Bruce’s team. It’s all going much better than we expected, especially the success we are having, and so we are very excited about Dubai and, of course, about the Dakar.
 
“The D-MAX is a very good car. Bruce and the team have done an excellent job and we are really looking forward to Dubai so we can learn how to get the best out of this car.”
 
Both Bruce and Pelle competed in the A5 category of the 2008 Australasian Safari, for unlimited 4WD recreational vehicles and Extreme 4WD vehicles. Pelle’s VehiCross is in Category A5.1 for modified 4WD vehicles up to 3500cc; Bruce’s D-MAX is in Category A5.2, for modified 4WD vehicles over 3500cc.
 
While the D-MAX engine is 2999cc, because it is turbo-charged the rules state that all diesel engines with forced induction will have their capacity multiplied by a factor of 1.5 (by 1.7 if petrol) as per the current CAMS Cross-Country Technical Regulations.
 
The Australian and Swedish crews tackled the Australian event as the first stage of their attack on the 2009 Dakar Rally in Argentina. The next step is the UAE Desert Challenge in late October.
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