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Mazda driver, Queenslander Melinda Both, will be a stand out competitor at this week’s Targa Tasmania. Not only is she the first female to be selected to drive for the brand, but when the rally kicks-off on Tuesday morning, she’ll be the only female driver at the start line.

Notorious for its challenging winding roads and unpredictable weather, Targa Tasmania is known as the ultimate test of ‘man and machine’ -- or in this case -- woman and machine.

Amid a tough modern car field of 100 plus male drivers, 31-year-old Melinda will contest the 2000 kilometre rally in a Mazda6 MPS with co-driver Samantha Stevens, of Sydney.

Melinda and Samantha are one half of Mazda’s two-car Targa race team, with Rick Bates of Canberra piloting a Mazda3 MPS. Bates’ co-driver is Anthony McLoughlin, who is also from Queensland. Both cars will contest the event’s modern competition.

As the first female driver to be selected by Mazda, Melinda is now set among former Mazda works drivers such as Dick Johnson, John Bowe, Mark Skaife, former F1 World Champion Alan Jones and former Australian Rally Champion Murray Coote.

“I’m certainly among illustrious company having been given the opportunity to drive for Mazda and I am delighted to be flying the flag for the girls,” says Melinda.

Even as a privateer, Melinda has already tasted success at Targa Tasmania. Last year she took home a class-win with her younger sister Jasmine calling the corners.

Despite the pressure riding on this year’s outing, the up-coming rally star remains calm and focussed on the five-day challenge ahead.

“My strategy for this year’s event is to be less conservative than last year.  I will be more calculated about the stages I’ll attack and then drive them as hard as possible while still conserving my tyres.”

The determined young woman has been committed to motorsport since her debut rally drive in 2003 and attributes her driving passion to her family’s long involvement in the sport.

“I was literally taken home from hospital [after being born] straight to a motorkhana so my Dad could finish the event, ” she says. “Having grown up watching my parents compete in motor sport it was just a natural progression for me to get involved.”

Only five years into her career Melinda already boasts an impressive portfolio of tarmac and gravel events.

Mazda Motorsport Manager and Targa Team Manager, Allan Horsley, says he selcected Melinda based on her flawless driving history.

"Melinda has already proven herself to be a naturally talented driver," says Horsley. "She has performed well on both gravel and tarmac. This is an incredible feat for someone who has only been driving for five years."

Join in on Melinda's Targa journey by following her Driver Diary on www.mazda.com.au/targa which will be updated at the end of each competition day.

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