Mansfield residents and long-time Targa competitors, Brian and Lin Dermott, have been two of the driving forces behind Australia's newest tarmac rally, Targa High Country.

Their foresight and planning have been instrumental in enabling Victoria's first ever multi-stage tarmac rally to get off the ground, and their efforts are already being well rewarded.

The brand new event will be based on Mt Buller from November 5 to 7, and has attracted a capacity field of 225 cars from around Australia. It is expected to ingest a significant financial windfall into local communities, and looks set to go from strength to strength.

Brian Dermott is excited about having an event in his own backyard.

"After the cost and hassle of going to 27 tarmac rallies all over the
country, it's amazing to compete on roads only 5 kilometres from home," Dermott said.

"The roads around here are one of the reasons we decided to retire to the Victorian High Country. With very little traffic, on a sunny Spring day, the drive into the King Valley in our Austin Healey is as close to recreating the freedom and escape and romance of 1960's motoring as you can get.

"It's like you've driven to Tuscany - a fruity Barbera with a Linguini at Christian Dal Zotto's Trattoria then a walk around Lake William Hovell is like a fortnight's holiday in an afternoon.

"It's great to be able to share this now with the tarmac rally people," he said.

The Dermotts put a lot of work into the initial planning of the event, but according to Brian, it was a job that was extremely enjoyable.

"This was not work," he stresses. "Just for fun, and to make sure there were no good roads which we did not know about, Lin and I spent a few days over several months planning our own personal Targa - we took the Healey on extended trips around the area and marked up the maps with where stages might go.  

"We also laid out a long town stage around Mansfield. Having marked up a map, we shared it with a few people more or less as a bit of a tease and thought nothing more about it.  

"Then, out of the blue, I got a call from Octagon's Mark Perry."    

He says there have been no hurdles in the organisation of Targa High Country, with all parties being extremely professional and energetic.

"Octagon have been great, but so have Ian Geer at the Mansfield Shire and Amber Gardner at the Mount Buller Management Board. And Mansfield councillors Dean Belle and Jeff Whyte could not have been more supportive."

Targa High Country will provide many benefits to Victoria and the north east region, with tourism right at the top of the list. However, Dermott says that the event will help open up the area to other types of events, bringing with them the usual economic benefits.

An improvement in local roads will be another major benefactor, as Dermott explains.

"Over the last 10 years there has been fantastic investment in roads around the High Country.  The Victorian Government has spent heavily in opening up access to the High Country.

"Great roads attract people with wheels - from cycling to motorbikes to sports cars - and so it is logical for the local shires to put on events for these groups to attract more people to the area as part of a long term strategy to build up tourism jobs.   

"Tarmac rallying is just one of the events, but it is a particularly high yielding sport because of the calibre of competitors and the time spent on reconnaissance, as well as the event itself," Dermott said.

Targa High Country consists of eight competitive stages each day, heading north to Wangaratta via Whitfield on the Saturday, and to Eildon via Jamieson on Sunday. Each day will end with a 20 kilometre stage to the summit of Mt Buller. A five kilometre stage around the streets of Mansfield will kick off the event.

The Dermotts will compete in Targa High Country in their 1971 Holden Torana XU1 replica, a car that was entirely build in Mansfield by Andrew Lawry, Greg Jones and Brett Smith.

Both Brian (69) and Lin (60) are sure to have incredible local support when Targa High Country gets under way on Friday, November 5. Their entry will be seen as the icing on the cake after months of work in the lead up to the inaugural event.

Further information on Targa High Country can be found at the event website:
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