Competitors tough it out
Bruce Garland. Picture: Offroad Images

You have to be exceptionally tough and determined - and slightly bonkers, if not deranged - to compete in a sport as rough and tumble as this.

Organisers call it the toughest endurance motorsport event in the Asia-Pacific region and the ultimate off-road adventure.

During the Australasian Safari two years ago, Sweden's Annie Seel got a stick though her foot but continued to ride with it until she reached the medics at the end of the day. She was back racing her bike the next morning.

Queenslander Rod Faggotter, just back from the Dakar Rally, tackled the WA race with a broken hand last year yet somehow finished third, epitomising the true spirit of the event.

Fellow Yamaha rider Shane Diener hit a kangaroo a couple of years ago and broke his leg - animal 1, man 0.

And in case you harbour any doubts, Sydney's five-time champ and off-road rally veteran Bruce Garland is back after an injury sustained at last year's Dakar - and a heart attack, which resulted in bypass surgery.

Garland and longtime co-driver Harry Suzuki are determined to get their Isuzu Dmax across the line to be the first diesel to win.

Diener is the 10-time winner of South Australia's 24-hour reliability trial and has his sights set on the podium for his fifth Safari.

They'll be pushed by a first-time entrant, Thai singer and TV star Kiatkamol Lata, 29, and teammate Rachan Trairat, who debuted last year, driving Isuzu Dmax V-Cross utes. Lata, known as Tui AF3, and Trairat are among 90 entrants for Safari 2012, including 20 overseas contestants.

Ballajura's Rob Herridge, the Australian Rally champion who won his class at his first attempt last year, is flying the flag for Maximum Motorsport with NSW mate Sam Hill in their 2008 Subaru Forester 5.

WA's John Purshouse came out of nowhere to claim second last year, and is a strong contender this time, with an improved vehicle benefiting from more preparation and testing time in his Team Perth Parts 2009 Mitsubishi Triton.

Riding a 500EXC with the CPW KTM team, Victorian Matt Fish is another young but experienced Safari competitor and desert racer who won the Indee 500 in Port Hedland.

Warren Strange, a 47-year-old WA businessman, is riding for GHR Honda and adds a sense of maturity to the list of top Australian riders, with two Safaris and a top-four finish. He is also in training for Dakar 2013.

Geoff Olholm, with the Cairns Coconut Holiday Resort Racing Team, and John Hederics in the Team PWR Racing 2008 Holden Colorado continue a 20-year rivalry, this time racing through WA on four wheels.

The West Australian

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