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NSW cross country rally legend, Bruce Garland, will follow previous patrons; George Fury, Geoff Portman and Jeff Beaumont, in filling a prestigious but some would say somewhat useless role at Mitta Mountain Rally on March 2. Why have a patron at a rally, you may well ask? The organisers of the Mitta Mountain Rally thought that having an event patron that was a respected elder of the sport would provide a great link between contemporary competitors at the state championship level and older crews and their cars in the Mitta Masters, which also forms a round of the East Coast Classic Rally Series. Bruce will be the first competing patron that Mitta has had. Hopefully that makes him more inspiring to young and older competitors. Bruce or ‘The Goose’ got his start as a driver in the Queensland Rally Championship in 1975 before earning a living out of rallying as a mechanic with the Ford Rally Team, then Mitsubishi Ralliart, which took him to WRC events in Europe, where he excelled as a “crash mechanic” ripping off the smashed parts of crashed rallycars and slapping on new bits in little time to keep cars in an event. He revelled in the role of competing service vehicle in Australian Safaris, driving Ralliart Mitsubishi Pajeros laden with spare gearboxes and axles flat out across outback Australia so as to be right behind the stars when they broke down. About then he must have thought he could mix it with the established drivers, and started building and racing his own cars. From an off road debut in the 1987 the Finke Desert Race, he moved onto win five Australian Safaris, three Condo 750s, and the marathon 1998 Round Australia Rally, as well as top five results in Asia, the US and the Middle East. Garland has also tackled the famous Dakar rally, his best result being an extraordinary 11th outright as well as first ‘amateur’ (non-factory team) home in 2009. Unfortunately his return to South America in the 2011 Dakar ended badly when he slammed his Isuzu ute off a 10-metre dune in Chile, broke his back and suffered a heart attack at the wheel. Months of recuperation only resulted in another heart attack and a quintuple bypass operation. So it is great to see Bruce out competing in the East Coast Classic Series in his Mk 1 Ford Escort, not with quite the same old obsessive compulsion for winning, but a passion to just compete. While competing at Mitta he is sure to be found dispensing well earnt wisdom as required, and will be interviewed at the post event presentation function about his career and current rallying before presenting trophies, including the Bruce Garland Cup to the winners of the Mitta Masters.
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