The seventh running of Targa High Country takes place this weekend in Victoria’s North West, with more than 190 cars heading to Mt Buller for the three-day event.

Craig Dean competes on the Mansfield street stage in his Ford Mustang in 2015.Victorian Matt Close, driving a 2015 Porsche GT3, holds the hopes of the locals in the prestigious GT2 competition, looking to add to his reputation after winning at the 25th running of the legendary Targa Tasmania in April.

He was also quickest at Targa High Country last year, so he has been in a rich vein of form across the past twelve months. But history will count for little as the cars tackle the 275 competitive kilometres from Friday to Sunday. He will come under plenty of pressure from a top field of GT2 two-wheel cars, with television personality and motorsport identity, Grant Denyer, one to watch.

Denyer will be behind the wheel of the latest Lotus Exige Sport 350 for the first time. While the car is making its debut, Denyer provides years of Targa experience and he is sure to be a contender across the weekend.

Craig Dean, driving a 2015 Ford Mustang Shelby GT, is looking to bounce back from his 2016 Targa Tasmania crash. Like Denyer, he has great experience to draw on and a class car, and will certainly be pushing for the podium come Sunday when the cars race back up Mt Buller for the final time to the finish line.

The Classic competitions have attracted a rich variety of cars, and plenty of talented drivers as well.

Veteran Jon Siddons is again present in his trusty 1970 Datusn 240Z, with wife and co-driver, Gina.

They won Classic GT at the six-day Targa Tasmania in April, so will be looking for further silverware this weekend.

Peter Nunn is another gun Classic GT driver, steering a 1985 Porsche 944 turbo. The Tasmanian had a home event he’d rather forget this year, but he knows the roads well in Victoria, being the fastest of the Classic cars in both 2014 and 2015, and is expected to push Siddons all the way for the Classic GT trophy.

Many Targa fans are wondering whether Colin Byrne can finally make the top step at High Country in his 1971Alfa Romeo GTV 2000 and break the V8 dominance in Classic class.

Last year at Targa High Country, Alan Roe produced one of the drives of the event to take Early Modern honours in his Lancer Evo 6.5, and he is clearly the man to beat again this year in his competition.

One competition wide open is the GT4, for Showroom class cars with all-wheel drive. With no Nissan’s GTRs in the field, the competition looks wide open. Richard Perini in a 2016 Mercedes A45 AMG will like his chances. Crichton Lewis, in a Subaru STI, was fifth on debut as a driver at High Country last year, and could be on the podium this time around.

An ever-growing component of every Targa field is the TSD competition, with 22 cars entered. Here cars must not exceed 130kph, and must finish as close to the set goal time as possible. The team with the least time penalties takes the honours and 2015 Targa High Country winners, Darryl and Andrew Marshall, driving a 2002 Ford Falcon Ute Pursuit 250, will be hoping to go back-to-back. But there are 13 Lotus’ in the field, so putting your money on that marque might pay dividends.

Former stars at TSD, Alan and Heather Gluyas have switched to the GT Sports competition, now driving a Renault Megane, and they will be hoping to reproduce their winning ways in the new class.

The Targa High Country stages are considered some of the best in Australian tarmac rallying. They offer a mix of fast and flowing roads, as well as tight and twisty stages that test car and driver to the limit, particularly on the final day around Lake Eildon.

For many competitors, the highlight of the rally is the stage from the Merimbah to the top of Mt Buller, held at the conclusion of days one and three of the event.

A feature of Targa High Country will again be the stage through the streets of Mansfield on Saturday afternoon, which will be the longest version ever staged at 4.4 kilometres and will be followed by the popular TargaFest. It all commences at 2.30pm and allows the general public to get up close and personal with the drivers and their cars.

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