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South Australian Kevin Weeks has put an $80,000 price tag on a podium finish at next year's Targa Tasmania after a fire in the engine bay of his Lamborghini Gallardo ended his 2006 campaign.

After footing the expensive bill for the repairs needed to return the $400,000 race car to its former glory Weeks and his Lamborghini will make the trip back to Tasmania next year from April 17 - 22 to vie for a podium finish.

“It has turned out to be a very expensive exercise,” says 56-year-old Weeks. “The culprit was a broken return line in the fuel system, the damage was all superficial and no harm was done to the engine but when you're working with a Lamborghini it all tends to add up.”

Adding to an already costly repair job, erring on the side of caution Weeks has also had the Gallardo's engine rebuilt in an effort to prime his car for the 2100km Tasmanian tarmac rally.

It seems all this is not without cause, as when disaster struck this year midway through Day Two of competition Weeks, and his navigator Rebecca Crunkhorn, had begun to edge their way into the Modern top five and at the time held a 20-second lead over Tasmanian Porsche driver and ultimate second place getter, Greg Garwood.

Meanwhile raising the bar of competition in Targa Tasmania's drivetravel.com Modern Competition is Porsche's latest weapon from its newest 911 range, the four-wheel-drive 997 Turbo.

Adding a new dynamic to the Modern field is Queensland Porsche driver Tony Quinn who has armed himself with the new Turbo for next year's rally, a significant upgrade from his previous 2001 model.

With the new Turbo on his side Quinn, who is a consistently competitive driver in Targa Tasmania, will prove quite the competition for the V10-engined, four-wheel-drive Gallardo.

As a Targa Tasmania addict Weeks says he has come too far since the event in late April to be threatened by a bit of genuine rivalry from the new Porsche, admitting he even considered buying one himself.

“I'm not sure about how the Gallardo will stack up against the new 997,” says Weeks. “Before the Gallardo came along I was holding out to buy one myself, but now that the Gallardo is back to its full potential all that's left to do is try for a podium next year.”

Proof of the model's potential and of the challenge that lay ahead for Weeks was local hero Jason White who, driving a Gallardo, finished third behind the Porsches of Greg Garwood and now eight-time Targa champion Jim Richards.

Although considerably lighter than the rivalled 997 Turbo, Weeks says that despite the Gallardo's power-to-weight advantage over its German rival, the fragility of the Lamborghini is perhaps its greatest flaw.

“We're comparing aluminium with steel which makes the Porsche a good 160 kilograms heavier, but with the Gallardo being more nimble it needs to be driven with that in mind.”

The engine fire was a dramatic end to Weeks' prickly 2006 Targa Tasmania campaign, with ongoing faults in its engine management system soiling his Gallardo's full potential.

“Part of me was disappointed as I knew what the car's Targa potential really was, but the reality is the car wasn't where it should have been,” reflects Weeks. “It wasn't running at its full potential and it wasn't one hundred percent ready for a truly competitive outing at this year's Targa.”

Tony Quinn's Porsche entry comes in beside Victoria's Geoff Taylor who this year finished third in the event's Shannons Classic Competition and Max Williams from the ACT who have both entered new 997 GT3s.

Despite their significant off at last weekend's Rally Burnie, local rally hero Jason White will be back in his Uncle John White's Gallardo but not before they make some substantial repairs of their own.

Entries are open for Targa Tasmania 2007 which will start in Launceston on Tuesday April 17 and finish five days and 2100km later in Hobart on the 22nd.

Crew: Kevin Weeks, SA - Rebecca Crunkhorn, SA
Car: 2006 Lamborghini Gallardo
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