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Faster, stronger and more ready than ever for their 10th Targa Tasmania, Matt and Casey Close go into next week’s 22nd running of the iconic road rally full of confidence with a refined and refreshed Audi TT RS.

The revelation of the Targa field over recent years, proving more than capable of battling with the more established Nissan GT-Rs and Lamborghini Gallardo supercars, the 2.5-litre turbocharged all-wheel drive TT RS has continued to perform stronger and more reliably with each outing, with the Closes being global pioneers of the TT RS in road-based competition.

The latest round of improvements has given the Audi Centre Melbourne-backed crew a boost in confidence going into their 10th Targa Tasmania, their fourth with the TT RS.

“We’ve recently cured our ESP gremlins,” Matt explained. “We’ve been improving the TT RS since its debut in 2010, but it’s always had a minor issue that would inconsistently trigger the ESP, where it either robbed us of time, or never provided the exact setting we wanted. We’ve finally isolated the issue and we’re now confident of being able to push from start to finish without an electronic handicap.”

Having finished with two second-outright finishes in their last two events, the Closes know what it takes to win and compete with the likes of multiple Targa winner Tony Quinn (GT-R) and Jason White (Lamborghini).

The husband-wife pairing won almost half the stages at January’s Targa Wrest Point, eventually finishing less than a minute behind Jason White’s Lamborghini Super Trofeo; this backed up their second outright at November’s Targa High Country, and it’s certainly encouraging that their two most recent results are also their best.

The Audi TT RS has also benefited from the recent change from a manual to the S-tronic dual clutch gearbox. “An amazing transformation!” enthused Close. “We’re now running a similar gearbox to the GT-Rs and Lambos, and we can now understand why it’s so much quicker. With launch control and seamless changes, the acceleration is relentless and with the paddle shift, there’s the added control of being able to always keep my hands on the wheel. We’re much quicker than we were last year.

“Ah yes, last year…” Running a strong third outright and just seven seconds off the second-placed Quinn GT-R, the Closes dropped a wheel off the road just enough to induce a crash which put them out of the event with just nine stages remaining.

“We know we need to finish this time,” added Close, “and sometimes you need a small off to refine your perspective of where the limit is; we’ve proved that over the past two events. ‘Win it or bin it’ certainly isn’t our mantra; this year we’re pushing for the podium and while outright victory might need a little luck to swing our way, we know we need to be up there to capitalise on it.”

Other improvements have been quite complementary: the TT RS’s braking system is optimised with EBC Brakes, a long-time supporter of Close; there’s also the recent addition of KW Suspension coilovers, which have “improved the car enormously”, says Matt, increasing overall body control and driver confidence; KWs are also fitted to the White Lamborghini and an increasing number of top cars.

Rain, hail or shine – and Targa gets them all – the Close & Close Audi TT RS is ready more than ever for the challenge.

Targa Tasmania 2013, Australia’s biggest road rally challenge, starts Tuesday April 16, finishing five days later on April 21.

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