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Close leads GT2 after day of drama

The opening day of the 25th running of Targa Tasmania saw high drama, with five-time champion Jason White copping a 60-second penalty on the very first stage, leaving him 57 seconds off the lead of the prestigious GT2 class at the end of the opening day of the six-day enduro.
Matt Close at George Town
White exceeded the minimum time on the opening stage, Legana, designed as a warm up for cars and crews. While only 0.8 seconds under the allowed time, it was enough to attract the hefty penalty, leaving the North-West Coast driver with plenty to do over the final five days.

White showed his potential in his new Dodge Viper ACR Extreme on the final stage at George Town, completing the 4.81 kilometre section three seconds quicker than Victorian, Matt Close in his Porsche GT3.

Brought up in Penguin, Close sits three seconds clear of Michael Pritchard in another Dodge with Toby Gill third a further ten seconds back in his 2016 HSV GTS.

Joshua Hilton and Adam Spence are tied in GT4 competition for Showroom 4WD cars.

In the Classic Handicap event, Peter Ullrich, in his beautiful 1963 Jensen CV8 leads Victorian Andrew White’s 1961 Volvo 122S by six seconds with Paul Freestone’s 1960 Aston Martin DB4 Classic, another second back.

Matthew Cardinaels’ 1972 Datsun 240Z has a two-second buffer over Launceston’s Peter Nunn in his 1985 Porsche 944 Turbo.

Close knows today was little more than blowing out the cobwebs, and know that the real challenge lies ahead.

“I know it sounds like a terrible cliché, but we’re really focussed on what we are doing and letting the results take care of themselves,” Close said.

“Since we won Targa High Country (in November), we made a few wheel alignment and other adjustments to manage our tyre wear a bit better, but there’s not much else you can do with the new rules.”

Classic leader Ullrich likes the idea of combining the late and early classics of previous years into the one category in 2016.

“We won Early Classic last year and the new combined handicaps are evolving very nicely for us – it will be interesting to see how we go against the late cars over the course of the event.”

Tony Quinn is expected to do very well in the GT4 category for 4WD Showroom cars, but had to settle for 8th place today having experienced some early troubles.

“We’re having an issue with the traction control kicking in – we’re not allowed to play with it, so it is what it is,” Quinn said.

“The suspension is not as good as I’d like it – I’m not whinging, but just saying it could be better. We weren’t pushing hard at all today – it might be a different story by day three or four.”

In the other competitions, Simon Cilento leads Modern in a 2005 Porsche 911 Turbo S, Alan Roe leads Early Modern in his 2000 Mitsubishi Evolution 6.5 RS, and Jeff Beable holds a slender buffer in Sports GT.

Fans were delighted to see Wayne Clark in a 1938 Dodge Speedster Special in the Vintage section while in the TSD competition, Brian Marshall has established himself as the man to beat.

After a relatively easy opening day, the real challenge will come tomorrow, with 68.88 competitive kilometres across seven competitive stages on a run that takes the field to St Helens on the East Coast and then  back to Launceston.

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