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Australia’s newest tarmac rally, Targa Wrest Point, has attracted a strong field of over 115 modern and classic cars to Hobart this weekend, looking to add their names to the top of the new honour boards.

A sister event to the legendary Targa Tasmania, Targa Wrest Point will see many of tarmac rallying’s greatest names to take on the challenge of 14 special stages across 177 competitive kilometres.

While the name drivers and the exquisite machinery will attract thousands of spectators over the two-day event, rally organisers, Octagon Australia, is quick to point out the economic benefit to the state.

“Targa Wrest Point will bring over $2 million in direct-spend economic benefit to Southern Tasmania, and naturally an event of this size cannot happen without the support of all our sponsors, local councils and over 600 hard working officials,” Event Director, Mark Perry, said.

“Our team have got the event off the ground in less than six months, at a time of economic uncertainty, and when many other tarmac rallies are being cancelled.”

For competitors, the highlight of Targa Wrest Point is likely to be the stage that uses the road to the famous Tahune Airwalk. Crews will also have the chance to experience the 597 metre airwalk during a gourmet lunch stop.

The competition within Targa Wrest Point is broken down into five separate vehicle categories: Modern, Early Modern, Early Classic, Late Classic, and Showroom. Competition will be fierce in all categories.

Pre-event favourite is multiple Targa Tasmania winners Jim Richards and Barry Oliver in their Porsche 911 GT2. Richards and Oliver are considered to be royalty in tarmac rallying circles, and they’ll be very difficult to beat.

Local Tasmanian hopes rest with the awesome Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera of Jason and John White who, after a recent test session at Baskerville Raceway, are confident of pushing for victory.

Veteran circuit racer, Tony Quinn, will be a dark horse in his brand new 2008 Nissan GTR, while former Australian Rally Championship star, Dean Herridge, will use his experience behind the wheel of a brand new Subaru Impreza WRX STI.

Others who are likely to impress in the Modern category include Simon Gillett (Subaru Impreza WRX STI), Greg Garwood (Porsche 911 GT3 RS), Andrew Miedecke (Daytona Coupe) and local hotshot David Waldon in a Subaru.

The Modern competition has been split into two for 2009 so that the great cars of the 1990s no longer need to go head-to-head with the latest 21st century machines.

In the new Early Modern competition, for cars from 1993 to 2003, the pacesetter is likely to be David Ayers and Robbie Bolton in a Nissan R33 GTR, or close friends Leigh Finlayson and Mike Stoneman in a Mitsubishi Evo VI. The two Hobart drivers know the roads well, and should have an advantage over their rivals, including Victorian Ian Knight (Porsche 911), Queenslander Paul Henry (Porsche 968) and New South Welsman Richard Perini in a Porsche 911.

Favourite for the Early Classic section (cars between 1900 and 1971) will the thundering HQ Monaro of Steve Coad, a combination which never fails to thrill the crowds with plenty of sideways driving. The deceptively quick Datsun 2000 Sports of Geoff Duggan will be snapping at Coad’s heels, as will a number of Ford muscle cars, headed by Scott Kent (Mustang) and George Nittis (Falcon).

The Late Classic category (cars produced between 1972 and 1990) has received the most entries, and as a result, it could well be the most competitive.

While he may not have the fastest car in the category, 2008 Targa Tasmania winners, Steve Glenney and Bernie Webb, will start as favourites. With the Modern Lancer Evo IX not ready, the South Australians will drive a borrowed 1981 Holden Commodore, complete with big block engine and big brakes. Glenney’s speed will make him the man to catch.

The Porsches of Bill Pye, Peter Eames and Gavin James should be his nearest challengers, while local favourite, Peter O’Keefe, will be pushing hard in his Torana SLR 5000. Another old Holden that is bound to be up with the front runners is the Gemini of the vastly experienced Moonah auto parts dealer, Adrian “Mozza” Morrisby.

Popular Queenslanders, Keith and Mary-Anne Callinan, will be one of the drawcards in their stunning De Tomaso Pantera – a booming 700 horsepower V8 monster that enters a Targa event for the first time.

After the introduction of the class in last year’s Targa Tasmania, Showroom numbers continue to grow.

Inaugural champion, Tony Warren, returns in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX, with the  experienced Natasha Deniese reading the pacenotes.  They will need to overcome Targa Tasmania runners-up, Scott Millar and Chris Dean, in a brand new Evo X, and experienced campaigners Barrie and Jan Smith, also in a Lancer Evo X.

Peter Brown could also surprise many in his `car of tomorrow’, a Mazda 3 Diesel.

The first car leaves Wrest Point at 9.00 am on Saturday, with each of the cars leaving at 30 second intervals thereafter. Competitors will tackle seven Targa stages on Day 1, with a further seven stages on Day 2.

Targa Wrest Point comes to a conclusion from 12.00pm on Sunday, where the inaugural winners and finishers will be given a gala welcome.

Many drivers in the field will use Targa Wrest Point as a ‘shakedown’ for April’s six-day Targa Tasmania, the jewel in the Australian tarmac rallying crown.

Further details about Targa Wrest Point can be found at www.targawrestpoint.com.au
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