As the 2013 Australasian Safari reaches its midpoint, wily cross-country racer Bruce Garland continues his ‘slow but steady’ campaign.
The rally is living up to its reputation as Australia’s toughest off-road motorsport event, with many competitors being slowed by the rough conditions.
Western Australia’s Gascoyne region was the scene for 432km of hard competitive racing yesterday, two stages over and through the area’s red earth, rugged ranges and rock formations and dry creek beds.
Leg Three circumnavigated the vast Bidgemia and Gascoyne Stations, and included fast-flowing rally roads and flood-damaged river plains. After a spectacular crossing of the Gascoyne River, competitors tackled rocky ranges, gutters and rough creeks that forced them to pay close attention to the road book.
“The D-MAX is great, going really well, and the driver is getting better every day! Lots of crews in front of us are having issues with the conditions but we just keep ticking.
“It’s a bit of a waiting game on an event like this. We don’t have the outright power of the guys running at the front but many of them are pushing too hard in the conditions and that’s when you can come unstuck. We’ll pick up the pace a bit now and see where we finish.”
Competing under the banner of Team Toyo and their own company, Isuzu Motorsports, Garland and long-time navigator Harry Suzuki usually tackle the Safari in a high-powered ‘Dakar-spec’ Isuzu D-MAX but this year the duo is driving an almost stock-standard variant.
With around 20 per cent more power and torque (156kW; 456Nm) than the showroom model, the ute is competing in the international T2 class that covers 4WD vehicles with some minor modifications. It currently sits 12th outright in the auto category.
Today’s racing (Leg Four) will take competitors from Gascoyne Junction to the town of Carnarvon, where the Gascoyne River meets the Indian Ocean.
Nine hundred kilometres north of Perth, Carnarvon is known as WA’s fruit bowl and is famous for its banana plantations. It’s also the gateway to the world-renowned Ningaloo Reef. Competitors will tackle two stages, one of 132.78km and one of 155.85km.
The 2013 Australasian Safari is in its 28th year. It kicked off with a ceremonial start in Perth and will finish in Geraldton this Friday, September 27, after travelling around 3200km. Garland and Suzuki are contesting the seven-day endurance race for the 17th time, and have won it five times.