four years ago, I was having a coffee with Harm Lagaay, chief designer for
Porsche (name-dropper, name-dropper...) at the Frankfurt Auto Show.
mentioned a lunatic road rally he had attended in Australia called the Targa
Tasmania. Not a time-and-distance thing, not a parade, but a flat-out,
first-is-first, second-in-nowhere, race on public roads.
said it was the most fantastic car event he had ever attended.
got home from that trip, I found a letter on my desk from Bill McVean, former
CFRB radio personality. Friends of his in Australia ran a travel agency, and
were trying to promote this wicked Antipodean car rally called the Targa
to hear about this event, twice, from diametrically opposite ends of the
earth, within a span of ten days, was a message from God - one day, I was
intended to do this thing.
Targa Tasmania was first run in 1992, not only to provide car enthusiasts with
an opportunity to drive their cars as they were meant to be driven, but also
to give the island state of this island nation a bit of tourism visibility.
the Targa was the best-kept secret in motorsports; the entry list is still
dominated by Aussies. Thanks to blabbermouths like Lagaay, it is attracting
more international exposure every year.
luminaries at Formula One aces Sir Jack Brabham, Dennis Hulme and Stirling
Moss, rally greats like Walter Roehrl, Sandro Munari and Roger Clark, even
motorcycle wizard Mick Doohan, have run this event.
year will be the tenth anniversary. It’ll be the biggest, best-attended
event yet, with over 300 cars.
is Italian for “plate”; the name of the Tasmanian event derives from the
trophy presented to the winners of one of history’s longest-running and
best-known open-road car races, Sicily’s Targa Florio.
Targa Tasmania pays homage to this history by running four competitions
simultaneously. “Historic” cars, built from 1900 to 1946, and “Touring
Classic” cars, from 1947 to 1965, run a shorter, less onerous course.
built up to 1981, or “Modern” cars - from 1977 to straight from the
factory if you like - run the full route. 1977 to 1981 cars can choose which
class they want to run.
end up with everything from a 1908 MAB replica with a 27-litre aircraft engine
- described as Australia‘s own “Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang’‘ - and a trio
of magical Bugatti Type 35Bs, to full-race Porsche 911 Carrera Turbo
four-wheel drives, Nissan Skyline GT-Rs, and Mazda RX-7s.
Number One for slower cars: watch your mirrors.
just don’t show up and run the Targa Tasmania. You “nominate” yourself
(apply) and the Vehicle Selection Committee “invites” you to compete - or
make it, the Technical Committee then decides if your car qualifies under
Standard, Limited Modified or Modified classifications.
are further sub-divided by age; you run against the clock, but only against
cars in your own grouping.
is blessed with a network of well-maintained tarmac roads, and with more sheep
than people, these can be closed with minimal disruption to the public. The
six-day event consists of 2,000 km, including 54 special stages, from one to
43 kilometres in length.
last year, fellow automotive writer Bob English, mentioned that he and his
good friend Doug Mepham were going to contest the 2001 Targa in Doug’s 1971
Volvo 142 S.
also a good friend of mine, a brilliant writer (for Carguide magazine and one
of those little papers down the road), and a fine driver. But by his own
admission, he could barely navigate his way out of his own driveway.
I did a rally in GM pick-up trucks a couple of years ago - for both our sakes,
he drove it all, I navigated it all. We did well.
you SURE about this navigating thing?” I asked him.
not really...” he said. I told him that if he had second thoughts, to tell
Doug that I’d be there in a heartbeat.
did. I am.
is one of the best-organized people I know. I’ll bet he trims each hair of
his beard individually with nail scissors every morning. When he exploded from
his mother’s womb, his hair was probably combed.
other words, he’s the kind of guy you’d trust to drive a rally car with
you in the right seat (or, more to the point, the “wrong” seat).
since we’ll be on the wrong side of the road.
car was prepped by Frank and Dan Sprongl, of Georgetown, who have been at the
very top of the Canadian rallying scene forever. Apart from safety mods - roll
cage, racing seats and belts, fuel cell, fire extinguisher system - and rally
navigation gear, the car isn’t hugely modified. Some suspension work, a bit
of breathing on the engine. The objective is finishing, not melting the
car has been assigned to the Limited Modification category in the Classic
have nothing on the Germans for bureaucracy. Getting the paperwork sorted for
this event was harder than getting the car done. Steam-clean the thing. Remove
every drop of fluid. Disable and drain the fire extinguisher system.
the car, and ship it via Houston and the Panama Canal to Australia.
read this, we will be in Melbourne, getting ready to put the car on the Spirit
of Tasmania ferry for shipment to Davenport, on Tasmania’s northern coast. A
pre-run (“Prologue”) on Tuesday will determine the starting order -
fastest cars last.
Wednesday, we find out how well we will get along as a driver-navigator
notes that we will run to finish, not necessarily go balls-to-the-wall. “I
can’t beat the kids,” he notes, “but I can outlast ‘em!”
that, my man.
- 30 -
...proceed to next Targa Tasmania story
...return to Targa Newfoundland Index page