Isuzu D-Max has won its class in the gruelling Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge.

The Isuzu Motorsports entry took out the highly-competitive class for improved 4x4 cross-country diesel vehicles, even though the team’s star driver, Australian Bruce Garland, was ruled out by injury.

Emirati newcomer Yahya el Helei climbed into the pilot seat of the specially-prepared D-Max, while Garland’s usual co-driver Harry Suzuki filled in as team manager. The combination worked as the crew took the Isuzu to fourth outright.

“It’s a sensational result and they did an excellent job,” commented Garland.

“They were up against some pretty tough competition but Yahya did really well, especially given he’s never before driven a diesel, right-hand-drive or vehicle with a sequential gearbox.

“It was a tough call but I knew he could so it, and he just loved the power of the Isuzu diesel engine,” added Garland.

The event was a round of the FIA World Cup for Desert Rallies.

Meanwhile Isuzu D-Max has been named Best Lifestyle Pickup, among three awards it garnered in the recent Car of the Year 2011 awards in the home of utes, Thailand.

D-Max was also named best-selling registered pickup and best economy 2,500cc pickup.

D-Max has won at least two awards in Thailand every year since its debut eight years ago.