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Off-road racing champion Bruce Garland has tossed aside another batch of health issues to stage a comeback at next week’s Coates Hire Rally Australia, the local round of the world rally championship.

While he is not an official entrant, it will be the Sydneysider’s first competition outing since undergoing prostate cancer surgery two months ago.

Mindful of the volunteers who have helped stage the many events he has competed in, Garland was eager to offer his assistance to the organisers of the WRC round which is being held on the Coffs Coast from September 12-15.

He will use the Isuzu Dakar D-MAX ute he raced in the famous Dakar Rally earlier this year as ‘fast sweep’.

The job entails a high-speed run along each section of the event after all the competition cars have gone through to check the road is clear and provide assistance if needed.

Garland will also act as a ‘courier’ service for the official TV crew, helping to deliver each camera operator’s vision back to headquarters for processing and broadcast to a worldwide audience.

“Rally Australia is our premier rally event – a world event – so there was no way I would miss being part of it,” says Garland, who is champing at the bit to get back into the forest.

“It will be such a spectacular show to be part of. With an event as big as this, you really need all hands on deck to make sure it runs successfully. The organising team did a fantastic job back in 2011 and I had a ball helping out so it was a no-brainer to put my hand up again this year.

“It will also be a good test of how well I have recovered from the surgery but more importantly, it’s all part of not wasting a day. You have to be out and about and having fun in this life, and if you can help other people at the same time, so much the better.

“I’m proof that you never know when you might have heart problems or get cancer, so you really do have to grab each and every day and give it your best shot.”

Clerk of course Adrian Stafford has known Garland for more years than he cares to think about and says there is no doubt he will do a good job.

“We are very happy to have someone with Bruce’s experience fill the important role of our fast sweep – and having Bruce and his repertoire of jokes around always helps keep up the spirits of the other hard working officials!”

Garland made a similar return to action during the 2011 Rally Australia, six months after fracturing a vertebra during the Dakar Rally and four months after a heart attack and five bypasses.

This year’s Dakar was his first return to full international competition after those setbacks but mechanical issues put paid to his dream of a solid finish. He has a similar dream for the week after Coates Hire Rally Australia – he and long-time co-driver Harry Suzuki are heading west to contest the Australasian Safari (September 20-27) for the 17th time. The pair has won it five times in the past.

Rally Australia (September 12-15) is Round 10 of the 13-event WRC series. It is being run in the Coffs Coast region of NSW, 535km north of Sydney. The route features 353km run as 22 special stages under competitive, closed-road conditions. A 1.6km ‘super special stage’ at Brelsford Park in the heart of Coffs Harbour will be contested by all competitors on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. 

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