For 36 years Paul and Christine Freestone have lived together as man and wife. For 14 of those years, Targa Tasmania has played a pivotal part in their lives as they have embarked on their annual pilgrimage to Australia’s premier tarmac rally.

This year will see the Victorian couple contest their 15th Targa Tasmania as they strive for their coveted Gold Diamond Targa Trophy.

They will once again be Holden mounted, but instead of their usual 2002 Monaro CV8 T3, they will drive a classic 1948/215 Holden – or an FX as they were best known.

Paul Freestone has a long and illustrious career in motorsport. He’s competed in everything from truck racing to motor bike racing, NASCAR, rallying and the Porsche Carrera Cup.

In 2009 he drove a Corvette Z06 to victory in the Australian GT Production Series, a car that was initially purchased to contest Targa Tasmania in 2008.

“On the day we were to ship the car to Tassie we did some last minute testing at Calder Park Raceway,” recalls 57-year old Paul. “At around 190km/h down the main straight we had total brake failure.

“Somehow I managed to get the car back to the pits unscathed, but we hate to think of the consequences had that happened in Targa.”

That Monaro did competed in another two Targas, but in 2010 the beloved “Humpy” will make its debut.

“The car was given to us by Greg Stevenson at the Monaro Performance Centre as a rusty old relic that had been living in his back yard for 19 years. The project has taken two long and expensive years, and all our knowledge and experience.

“The car is a masterpiece of love and devotion from all concerned in her rebirth. We have also created an FJ ute – again from a rusty heap – to tow the Targa car.”

Sponsored by the family business, Freestone’s Transport, the FX has been purpose-built to Targa Tasmania’s rally regulations, and Paul can’t wait to get behind the wheel.

“For 10 days our world stops and we go to Tasmania to personally challenge ourselves to be the best we possibly can be,” Paul says.

“Over the years we have made some very special friends of our fellow competitors, and there is a mutual respect for their equipment and preparation, and their ability to drive well.”

The Freestone’s plan is to finish and win their Gold Diamond Targa Trophy, but they are the first to admit that when the flag drops, the red mist comes down and they are in competition mode.

“I’m very confident in Paul’s ability behind the wheel,” Christine adds. “For the first 15 years of our marriage he drove as an interstate Linehaul driver, so he gained many skills in handling equipment in that time.

“Rain doesn’t worry him, and in fact, I think he drives better in the wet weather.”

With a service crew of three, the old Holden will be fettled and pampered over the six days of the event, with Paul and Christine keeping themselves in good condition by cycling and walking in the lead-up to Targa.

“They are tough days, but Paul takes his fold-up BMW mountain bike to the event, so we both try to exercise on competition days. It helps settle us down for the big day ahead.”

While Freestones admit to a cost of competing in Targa Tasmania, they admit that the positives they get from the event far outweigh any financial negatives.

“We feel privileged to be about to compete in this amazing event,” Paul concludes. “There is nothing else in the world that can compare to this.

“The people of Tassie are ‘true blue’ and make us feel very welcome each year. We don’t know how many Targas we have left in us, but we can’t wait for this year, our 15th.”

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.

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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