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Sixth Targa High Country ready to roar

Over 200 sports and classic cars will take to the roads of north-east Victoria this weekend when the sixth instalment of Targa High Country roars into action.
Craig Haysman

Based on Mt Buller at the top of the Victorian Alps, the all-tarmac closed-road rally is a sister event to the iconic Targa Tasmania, and has again attracted a high quality field of cars and drivers.

Three days of competition lie ahead of crews, with the 18 stages taking drivers and co-drivers to Euroa and back on Friday, into the King Valley wine region on Saturday, and to the picturesque Lake Eildon on the rally’s final day, Sunday.

Much of the interest in the event will be in the Showroom competition, where motor racing legend, Jim Richards, will do battle with the experienced Tony Quinn in two of Targa’s most exotic cars.

Quinn, from Queensland, took class honours at this year’s Targa Tasmania back in May and will start as the hot favourite this weekend in his beautiful 2014 McLaren 650S. Quinn is an experienced Targa competitor who will be hard to catch.

Jim Richards and co-driver, Barry Oliver, won’t let him have it all his own way, however. The seven-time Targa Tasmania winners have done nearly everything in tarmac rallying, and with a new Porsche GT4 to play with, they will be eager to keep the pressure on Quinn throughout the event.

Also up for a fight to the finish will be Matt Close in a new 2015 Porsche GT3, while the battle of the V8s between Neill Ford (Chevrolet Corvette ZR1) and Craig Dean (Ford Mustang Shelby GT) will be intriguing throughout.

The relatively new Showroom Sports Trophy will be another competition to keep an eye on, with a range of sought-after cars in the line up.

There are Ford Fiestas and Holden Commodores on the entry list, as well as BMWs, Audi TTs, Porsches, and even a magnificent 2013 Maserati GranTurismo Sport, driven by Queenslander Alan Hammer.

Fans of classic cars are in for a feast of action over the three days, with everything from Jack Waldron’s 1955 Fiat Abarth 750 through to Ken MacDonald’s 1985 Ford Sierra RS Cosworth. 

In between, there’s a host of Datsuns, Holdens, Porsches, Fiats, Renaults, BMWs and even a much-loved 1969 Morris Mini Cooper S, in the hands of Will Walker.

The battle for Classic Outright honours is another that will be tightly contested, with the leading protagonists being South Australian, Craig Haysman, in his 1981 Triumph TR7 V8, and Tasmania’s Pete Nunn in his 1985 Porsche 944 Turbo.

Haysman won the category at Targa Tasmania, but not before Nunn led all comers early in the event, only for his Porsche to suffer mechanical problems. It will be a battle to watch.

The podium places in Classic Outright will be hard fought, with a brace of Datsun 240Zs sure to be in the running. Tim Knappstein, Jon Siddins and Matthew Cardinaels are all experienced Targa competitors and should be there at the finish.

One of the crowd favourites is again likely to be NSW driver, Adam Kaplan, in his thunderous 1988 Holden Commodore HSV Group A SS, a car certain to get the most out of its rear tyres!

The Targa High Country stages are considered some of the best in Australian tarmac rallying. They offer a mix of fast and flowing roads, as well as tight and twisty stages that test car and driver to the limit, particularly on the final day around Lake Eildon.

For many competitors, the highlight of the rally is the stage from the Merimbah to the top of Mt Buller, held at the conclusion of days one and three of the event.

After mid-week storms and heavy rain, the weather is expected to fine up for event, but the chance of rain cannot be discounted, making tyre choice difficult for drivers.

A feature of Targa High Country will again be the stage through the streets of Mansfield on Friday afternoon, which will be followed by the popular Targa Fest. It all commences at 2pm and allows the general public to get up close and personal with the drivers and their cars.

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