Down to the wire at Targa High Country
- 5th November 2016, 8:32am
Overnight GT2 leader, Matt Close, holds just a one second advantage over the hard-charging Dodge Viper ACR of Michael Pritchard after the second day of competition at Targa High Country.
Close started the day with a 12 second buffer in his 2015 Porsche 911 GT3 but then faced a fierce challenge from Pritchard on the day’s 58.85 competitive kilometres in testing conditions.
With one day remaining Close remains in the outright lead and heads the GT2 competition, but there will be little restful sleep for the reigning champion before the final shoot-out on Sunday.
On the opening Mirimbah stage this morning, Pritchard took seven seconds from Close and then gained another six seconds on Barwaite to grab the lead by one second. On the final stage to lunch, Pritchard made it three stage wins a in a row to go to lunch with a three second buffer.
By the time the field returned to Mansfield for the final stage of the day, the two were locked together. Close was quickest over the 4.43 kilometre street stage in Mansfield, to take the lead. Craig Dean and Kate Catford have moved up to third in their 2015 Mustang Shelby GT one minute 04 seconds from Close.
Duttons Garage Early Modern is also hotly contested, and the heat remained on the leading bunch all day. But in the end nothing but the margins changed. Alan Roe and Michael Lloyd stared the day conservatively in their 200 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6.5, conceding eight seconds from their 51 second Day 1 buffer over Adam Kaplan and Aleisha Penney’s 2004 BMW M3 CSL on the run to the lunch stop.
But across the afternoon on the return run, Roe quickened his pace to finish the day 55 seconds ahead of Kaplan, with Liam and Larry Howarth still third in their 1995 Nissan Skyline GT-R, now one minute 45 seconds off the leader’s pace.
In Shannons Classic GT, Peter Nunn and Keith Johsntone stretched their margin by more than a minute on the opening three stages. By day’s end the lead had grown further, their 1985 Porsche 944 turbo four minutes and 18 seconds clear of the yellow V8 Triumph TR7 of South Australian Crag Haysman and Julie Boorman.
Back in third was another yellow classic, this time the 1980 Jaguar XJS of Mark Hammond and Lisa Dunkerton, a further two minutes 05 seconds further back.
In the Shannons Classic handicap competition, the New South Wales combination of Nik Prieston and Dylan Braithwaite were the big movers on the second morning. They took their 1975 Fiat Abarth Rallye from overnight fifth up to third at the lunch break at Pizzini Winery, a position they held over the final three stages of the day.
Out in front remained Lindsay Stone and Simon Martin in their 1985 Mazda RX-7, one minute 39 seconds clear of the 1971 Porsche 916 of Ted Banks and Bruce Douglas. Prieston was a further 40 seconds back, with the local hope, Brian and Linda Dermott in the 1971 Torana, just two seconds further back.
In the RDA Brakes GT4 competition, Trevor Macleod and Steve Glenney’s 2010 Subaru WRX STI took a very narrow eight-second lead into the second day over the 2013 Audi TTRS of Max Williams and Bruce Bush. But Williams had early troubles meaning another TTRS, driven by Barrie Smith and Anthony McLoughlin, moved into second, just 26 seconds from the lead and still hopeful that things could change on the final day.
Crichton Lewis in his Subaru WRX STI is now third in GT4, a further 46 seconds back, but still in touch.
In the Mansfield Shire GT Sports Trophy, Anthony and Toni Rizzo built on their lead in their 1977 Subaru WRX STI, but despite a strong day on the roads they have fellow Subaru STI drivers, Jordon and Debbie Bridge still within striking distance, now one minute 16 seconds behind. Adam Gosling and Ian Noble also stayed in touch across the afternoon stages in their 2002 BMW E46 M3 and are now 26 seconds further back in third.
The combination of Brian and Justin Marshall, in a 2011 Volkswagen Polo GTI, continue to lead the TSD Trophy, accumulating just a further seven penalty points for the day to bring their total to an impressive score of just 13. Darryl and Peter Marshall, driving the popular Ford Pursuit Ute remain second on 29 points having gained 16 for the day, but now have the 2006 Lotus Elise of Jeffrey Morton and Jarred Kershaw breathing down their necks on 33 points.
The final day of Targa High Country sees the field head from Mt Buller out to Eildon and back, with a further six stages and a monster 125.73 competitive kilometres to negotiate.
Many of the stages are tight twisting roads, and two of the stages, Jamieson and Eildon, are 40 kilometres long. Even the final sprint up Mt Buller has as history of drama, so the result looks likely to go down to the wire.
The winners will be crowned in the Village at Mt Buller at around 5pm.
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