Highly decorated rally driver Ross Dunkerton believes the inaugural Targa Great Barrier Reef can cement itself as a valuable annual event for Tropical North Queensland. Organisers of the event have struck a three-year deal for the Cairns-based Targa Great Barrier Reef that will see more than 200km of competitive action across 18 stages of the region’s picturesque and challenging roads from August 31-September 2. Dunkerton settled in Cairns 10 years ago after being raised in Fremantle, Western Australia, where he became Australia’s champion rally driver in the 1970’s and 1980’s. He joined the Mitsubishi Ralliart squad, driving a Galant VR-4 for the first World Rally Championship round in Western Australia in 1989. The Perth-based event became a highly respected WRC round before the WA government decided to pull backing after 2006. “I hope and I know Targa Great Barrier Reef can turn out to be an iconic rally event for the region,” Dunkerton said. “We saw what happened in Western Australia when the World Rally Championship came to town in 1989. “It became one of the great rallies of the world. Indeed Langley Park in the middle of Perth taught the WRC the importance of Super Special stages. “It generated so much money and exposure for the state. “I know this Cairns event has triggered a lot of interest from people who are showing serious signs of competing in a tarmac rally for the first time. “It is similar to what was happening in WA back in the late 1980’s. “There are quite a number of crews from North Queensland who have entered so it just shows you the interest has been backed up by people committing to compete. “I was confident that the event would attract 200 entries and I think it stands at about 215 which is a fabulous response to a new event in a new area.” Dunkerton will campaign a 2006 Subaru WRX STI along with Brisbane-based co-driver Alan Stean in the Early Modern category. The 73-year-old’s career is highlighted with Australian Rally Championship titles in 1975, ‘76, ‘77, ‘79 and ‘83, Asia Pacific Rally Champion in 1991 and 1992 and Southern Cross Rally champion in 1980. His 25-year-old son Aaron will undertake his first tarmac rally at Targa Great Barrier Reef a 1989 Nissan Silvia in the GT Sports Trophy category. “It’s going to be a challenge for Aaron and his co-driver. There are so many corners and it will be hard to remain completely in tune with the pace notes.” Targa Great Barrier Reef will start from the Cairns Reef Hotel Casino on August 31before the field makes its way to the first of 18 stages at Green Hill. Locals will also be able to get up close to the cars at the Targa Expo at the Cairns Convention Centre on Friday August 31 from 6pm to 8pm and at Targafest, to be held on The Esplanade in Cairns on Saturday September 1 from 4pm to 9pm.
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