SATURDAY, AUGUST 19: Defending Vodafone Australian Safari champion Bruce Garland today expressed concern that a lack of pre-event testing in his Holden Jackaroo could jeopardise his prospects in this year's event, which starts in Alice Springs tomorrow.
The 41-year-old from Sydney had to cancel a schedule test session near Alice Springs today because his four-wheel-drive vehicle was impounded after scrutineering for the 4,067km international cross country rally through the Northern Territory which finishes in Darwin on August 27.
Garland, top seed in the Auto Division, said he wanted to test the Jackaroo he had entered in the Safari because it had not been driven extensively since the Finke Desert Race in the Northern Territory during June.
"We gave the Jackaroo a general shakedown and systems check for about 20-minutes after I arrived here (Alice Springs) yesterday, but I'd planned a serious hit-out today to test for reliability," he said.
"Unfortunately we couldn't do anything because all the vehicles were impounded after scrutineering."
"I'm more than a little worried because the Jackaroo hasn't had a flat-out run since the Finke race two months ago and there are a thousand-and-one things that can go wrong in an event like the Safari."
Garland was prevented from testing his Jackaroo, which is powered by a 3.5-litre normally-aspirated engine generating 330-horsepower, in the lead-up to the Safari because he competed in this month's 4,500km 4x4 Asian Rally in another vehicle and did not return to Australia until last Wednesday.
"No sooner had I got home from Asia before I had to pack my bags again and head for the Safari, so there was no time for any testing," he said.
"Since we got here my team have gone over the Jackaroo checking everything from top to bottom, and hopefully things hang together."
Garland and navigator Harry Suzuki are chasing a record third victory in the Safari, after previously winning the event in 1996 and again 12 months ago.
Their main opposition among the 24 entries in the Auto Division is expected to come from NSW father-and-son combination of Terry and Michael Denham in a Mitsubishi Pajero, and former Australian speedway champion Ross Nicastri in a Nissan Patrol with Steve Green. The Denhams are seeded second, and Nicastri and Green third.
The Moto Division has attracted 33 entries, including former 500cc world champion Kevin Schwantz of the United States, and 165 riders from Japan.
Schwantz is making his cross country debut in the Safari and is riding a Suzuki DR-Z400. The 35-year-old Texan, who injured his ankle when he hit a rock during a training ride near Alice Springs on Thursday, is seeded second in the Moto Division, behind South Australian Andrew Caldecott on a KTM 660 Rallye.
"My ankle was sprained and bruised by the rock, but since then I've made a quick recovery," said Schwantz.
"This is my first shot at one of these races - it's nothing like a 500 grand prix, and my main aim is to make it to the finish in Darwin."
The Safari starts at Tod Mall in Alice Springs, and on the opening day competitors will cover 329km, with 242km in four competitive stages, to Ross River and back. There will be seven overnight stops during the event before the finish on Mindil Beach in Darwin.