In a fitting subtext to the first diesel-powered Dakar Rally victory, Garland and his navigator Harry Suzuki, also scored first place in the T1/2 Amateur bracket, plus was the highest placed Australian overall.
Garland started the rally in 51st position on the road and after dropping to 65th on the second day, then relentlessly climbed up the leaderboard with consistently fast but measured driving.
Such strategic pacing allowed Garland to finish the 9000km event in 11th place. More than half of his 177 strong car-class competitors failed to finish.
The D-MAX was a model of reliability - in line with Isuzu’s reputation - reporting no issues through out the event while still being fast enough to keep him near the chopped, carbon-fibre rocketships at the front.
Garland’s Swedish teammates Pelle Wallentheim and Olle Ohlsson (Tubus Racing) had some off-track excursions and consequent car damage but finished strongly in 44th place.
The two Isuzu D-MAX utes driven by Garland and Wallentheim were prepared in Garland’s Sydney workshop and ran standard 3.0-litre turbo-diesel engines, just reprogrammed for the moderately higher outputs of 160kW of power and 500Nm of torque (up 33 and 39 per cent respectively).
"We’ve done it and it’s a huge achievement," says Garland, who admitted to initial emotions of relief and exhaustion. "I think less than 10 per cent of the cars did the entire course and our D-MAX was one of them, so we’re really proud of that. It never missed a beat. We put a year’s work into preparing for the event, so to get both the cars home, with just a few problems for Pelle, that’s pretty special".
"Obviously Harry and I would have liked to have snuck into the top 10 and we gave it our best shot, but 11th, given the strength and experience of the top competitors and everything this event has thrown at us, is a fantastic achievement. The last stage was great. Real rally roads, very fast and flowing, absolutely flat-out, top-speed stuff, with square corners around farm fields. A great way to finish – and the crowds were fantastic, treating us like rock stars."
“Our small team of just eight technicians and one logistics lady has done the most amazing job to get Pelle and I here – and so have all our sponsors. Without a lot of hard work by a huge number of people who have supported us and encouraged us in so many ways, this just would not have happened.”
While he would have liked to finish higher up the order, Wallentheim had an extra reason to celebrate – he’s in remission after recently beating a rare form of bone and blood cancer that hospitalised him for two years and came close to ending his life. Dakar is the dream that kept him going.