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Despite a frustrating end to his Dakar 2013 campaign, Australian off-road champion Bruce Garland is already thinking about tackling the world’s most gruelling cross-country rally again.

Garland and co-driver Harry Suzuki were forced to withdraw on day 12 of the 14-day, 8500km race across South America when a contaminated batch of fuel ‘cooked’ the engine of their 2012 Isuzu D-MAX. The 2013 Dakar Rally started in Lima, Peru, on January 5 and ended in Santiago, Chile, on January 19.

The second Isuzu Motorsports crew of Adrian Di Lallo and Steve Riley (Red Earth Motorsport) finished 38th outright in the gruelling event, driving the 2008 D-MAX that took Garland and Suzuki to 11th outright and first diesel ute home in the 2009 Dakar.

“I can’t even begin to describe how frustrating it is to have all our efforts come to nothing because of bad fuel,” says Garland, whose home and workshop are in Sydney.

“It’s a well-known problem over there, so the factory teams take their own fuel to be sure. We can’t afford to. It adds around $7000 to the cost of doing the event and we just don’t have the budget for that.”

Fuel issues aside, and despite some other minor issues along the way, Garland says the new D-MAX performed strongly – as did he, returning to the Rally two years after fracturing a vertebra in the 2009 event, and having a heart attack and bypass surgery two months later.

He’s delighted with the performance of the older car, and his teammates, who drove at a cautious but consistent pace during what was Di Lallo’s first tilt at the world’s toughest motorsport marathon.

“I’m really pleased for Adrian and Steve – they and their team (Red Earth Motorsport) did a fantastic job for Isuzu Motorsports and for themselves. Just getting to the start line of the Dakar is a huge achievement, let alone finishing and in one piece. And for that car to complete two Dakars is incredible too – it just proves how strong the D-MAX is.”

While not ready to confirm that he will be heading back to South America, Garland admits he is looking at all the options.

“Obviously we would like to go again. Both Harry and I feel we have unfinished business there, because what happened this year was not part of our plan, but we need to work out how to go about it.

“You learn something every time you do an event like this and it really isn’t something you should do without all the resources you can muster. Given Isuzu Motors International Thailand is our biggest sponsor, we will be heading to Thailand in the next week or so, to talk it all through with them and find out how they want to approach it in the future.

“Until we know what their commitment is – and that of our other sponsors – we can’t start making plans or building cars. Obviously, though, you can’t build a car for Dakar in five minutes, so we need to know soon if we are to be planning for 2014.”

Garland confesses that he and the rest of the Isuzu Motorsports crew are suffering severe post-Dakar withdrawal symptoms and are struggling to get to grips with everyday life again.

“You put such a massive amount of effort into it, both in the lead-up and on the event itself, that you can’t quite believe it when it’s over. Still, it is nice to have a full night’s sleep, instead of going for days with almost none – and it’s pretty good sleeping in my own bed again, too, instead of a swag!”

Aside from the proposal he is putting together in readiness for the trip to Thailand, Garland says he doesn’t have too much time to relax.

“I’m now catching up on the never-ending list of chores around our house that didn’t get done last year!” he laughs.
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