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Australian offroad racing star Bruce Garland will head for the Northern Territory this weekend, in preparation for the running of the annual desert classic, the Finke Desert Race.

This is the 38th time the ‘Finke’ has been run and Garland has competed in nearly half of them, simply because he loves the event so much.

“I think this is my 14th but I’m not sure – must be senility setting in!” he laughs.

“It’s such a great event. The very worst road in Australia with the very best people. The whole community gets behind it, and I really can’t imagine it could happen anywhere else in the world.”

Held on the Queen's Birthday long weekend (June 8-10), the Finke Desert Race is an off-road, multi-terrain two-day race for bikes, cars, buggies and quads from Alice Springs to the small Aputula (Finke) community and back again.

The race is one of the biggest annual sporting events in the Northern Territory and has the reputation of being one of the most difficult off-road courses in one of the world’s most remote places.

Garland and long-time navigator Harry Suzuki are driving the Isuzu Motorsports D-MAX, which they ran in the famous Dakar Rally early this year. They are entered in the 'Extreme 4WD' division, which is for highly modified 4WDs with engines under 7200cc (diesel) or 6000cc (petrol).

“The aim of the exercise is to get down and back with the least amount of pain,” Garland says.

“Any result is a bonus because it truly is a brutal race, wet or dry. And we’re praying for rain as usual, because the D-MAX and our Toyo tyres absolutely excel in the mud.

“King Shocks are bringing out nine engineers from the US to do work with competitors who are using their shocks. I understand one of them is an Indian tribe member, so we plan on asking for some extra help from him. If he can do a rain dance for us, we should be set!”

For the first time in several years, the Finke will not be part of Garland and Suzuki’s preparation for the Dakar Rally. The pair has no plans to compete in 2014, after a heartbreaking end to this year’s event, with a multitude of issues finally forcing their withdrawal.

“It was a tough start to the year,” Garland says.

“But you can't let a bad run get to you – like the cliché, you have to get back on the horse and give it another crack so we are pretty fired up to be back behind the wheel again. It will be great to be back in the car and back in the desert, especially up there. The Finke is the 'Bathurst of the bush' and we all love being part of it, plus it is a great opportunity for the team to tune and test for events like (the Australasian) Safari and Dakar.

“Last year we gave this D-MAX its racing debut and managed 27th outright and first in class which was a pretty good effort in its first run out against the petrol-powered buggies and trophy trucks – so this year, with the additional knowledge we now have about the car, we'll be aiming to go even better.”

This year's Finke Desert Race will attract over 500 competitors across the various two and four wheel classes.

The Isuzu Motorsports D-MAX is far from your run-of-the-mill ute. Hand-built by Garland and his team, the modified 'Space Cab' D-MAX generates over 180kW of power and 590Nm of torque.
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