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Off-road racing legend Bruce Garland has gained around 10 places from start to finish on Day One of the famous Finke Desert Race – the international racing debut of the new Isuzu MU-X wagon.

Garland posted a time of 3h:28m.42s on the first leg of the race, from Alice Springs to the overnight stop at Aputula (Finke), a distance of around 226km.

A total of 88 cars/buggies were set for a start this morning but at least 24 did not finish the section, which was dry and dusty despite a brisk breeze.

There are some queries over today’s results because of some operational issues, but it’s difficult to check because communication is almost impossible with the remote region.

The MU-X is entered in Class Seven for Production 4WD (diesel, not exceeding 7200cc), which means it remains close to stock-standard. The car – Isuzu’s first entry into the world of seven-seat family transport – is powered by a three-litre turbo diesel. Standard power and torque figures are 130kW/380NM, but this vehicle is expected to pump out around 195kW/600Nm.

Channel Seven reporter and weatherman, James Tobin, partnered Garland for the outward leg. For tomorrow’s run back to Alice Springs, long-term navigator, Harry Suzuki, will return to the passenger seat.

The Finke is the richest off-road race in the Southern Hemisphere. It started in 1976 as a ‘there and back’ challenge for local bike riders but soon grew. Cars and buggies (specialist desert racing vehicles) were introduced in 1988. This year’s event – the 39th running of the annual classic – marks Garland’s 14th start.

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