Launceston driver David Cooper has twice had victory in Targa Tasmania’s Classic competition in his sights, only to have his dream denied at the last minute because of off-road excursions.

The Forty-four year old father of four has a recently built 1977 Holden Torana A9X for his assault on this year’s Targa, and is hoping that his 16th entry in the event will prove to be a successful one.

“In Targa Tasmania 2004, in an A9X, I was two minutes and 34 seconds in front on the last day, but ran off the road at Hellyer Gorge in the rain,” Cooper laments.
“And in 2003 I was also leading the Classics on day four when I was ‘punted’ off the road by a fellow competitor and it destroyed my Torana XU1 - and my lead.”

Cooper started racing at the age of 17, and 27 years later he still has the bug. Along with his entries in Targa, he has also contested 15 Rally Tasmanias, so his knowledge of the roads used in the north of the state are second to none.

“The attraction of Targa for me is preparing a vehicle with a small team of friends and taking on the ‘mainlanders’, who all seem to have unlimited budgets and big dollar cars.”

A dedicated crew, including Steve and Jesse Martin, and Brad Sherriff, have helped build the new car from a bare shell. The result is a beautifully presented example of one of Australia’s most popular ‘Muscle Cars’.

With a 650 brake horsepower engine, Cooper and his co-driver, Jason Dann, 47, need the weather conditions during Targa to be “as dry as the Sahara Desert” in order to give them any chance of victory.

“It won’t be easy,” he says. “In 2010, we will once again be chasing the Porsches and trying to keep them honest.

“Peter Eames has arguably the fastest tarmac rally car in Australia at the moment with his 1974 RS, and we hope to be pretty close behind him.

“This will be my first outing with Jason Dann as navigator. I have mostly used friends before, but tarmac rallies have turned into full professional events, so you need a navigator who has the time, energy and experience.”

Cooper and Dann will use safety pacenotes for the event, something the driver admits makes the event safer, and that he would not do the event without.

The pacenotes provide detailed descriptions of the competitive Targa stages, including the severity of the corners, the road conditions, and of any potential hazards along the way, such as blind crests and off-camber corners.

Targa Tasmania is a cavalcade of motoring history and starts on Tuesday, April 27.

After a 5.1 kilometre prologue around the streets of George Town to decide the event running order competitors tackle 39 Targa stages over a total competitive distance of over 400 kilometres.

“Targa is a long event and getting harder by the year,” Cooper says.

“I treat it as my Mt. Everest. It’s next to impossible to get a 35-year old classic car around a tarmac rally course, and be at the pointy end without a mountain of heartache and anguish.

“But it’s great fun trying!”
Cooper’s assault on Targa Tasmania is being supported by his own businesses, Boost Automotive and B Select Tyres of Launceston, of which he is the Managing Director.
The 19th Targa Tasmania is primarily based in Launceston, while the event also spends one night in the west coast town of Strahan, before finishing in Hobart on May 2.
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