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The Dakar dream is over for Australian offroad racing star Bruce Garland, after a tainted batch of fuel badly damaged the engine of his Isuzu D-MAX.

The veteran racer had returned to contest the world’s most gruelling motorsport event two years after breaking his back in the 2011 rally and having a heart attack and five coronary bypasses two months later.

The dream was to match or better his best result – 11th outright and first diesel ute home in 2009. However a series of problems over the last few days – including a nine-hour overnight drive at race pace after replacing a turbo – put paid to that idea.

From then on, just to finish was the goal – until two days ago when the car wouldn’t start. Electrical problems were suspected but eventually the crew narrowed it down to the polluted diesel.

Dakar Rally rules forbid changing engines during the event so the crew virtually tore the car apart to replace everything they could, but despite those herculean efforts, they could not fix the problem.

“We would have pushed the D-MAX across the finish line if we could, if the organisers would have let me, but it was taken out of our control,” says Garland, who admits he and long-term co-driver Harry Suzuki are gutted to have to concede defeat.

“They wouldn’t let us start Stage 12 even though they had cancelled Stage 11 and we had been cleared to start that, but to be honest, we weren’t able to. The car just wouldn’t go. We’ve just had to be towed over the mountains from Argentina to Chile.

“It’s been a hellish few days. We’re just so exhausted, trying to work out what the problem was. We’ve changed everything we were allowed to and just couldn’t get it to fire up and then we tested the fuel and worked out it was just garbage, watered down. Apparently it happens a lot over here.

“So while it is absolutely shattering not to be able to finish, at least we now know what we are dealing with. We’re going to need a new engine, but first we need to get it home.”

Meanwhile, the highly successful 2009 car has backed up for another run, this time in the hands of Dakar rookie Adrian Di Lallo, of WA, and his experienced co-driver Steve Riley, of Victoria.

Racing cautiously with the aim of simply finishing the event, the pair were 51st on stage, during the 700km run across the Andes Mountains from Fiambalá in Argentina to Copiapó in Chile, which puts them in 39th outright, with two full stages remaining. But it was not an uneventful day.

“We were doing okay until we rolled two tyres off their rims in the nasty Copiapó sand dunes,” says Di Lallo.

“That is the nature of the beast that is Dakar, though. We’re happy with where we are and looking to finish.”

The rally started in Lima, Peru, on January 5 and finishes on Sunday (Australian time) in Santiago. 
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