Two-time Bathurst winner, Tony Longhurst, will tackle the Mt Buller Sprint this weekend in his Subaru Impreza WRX, looking to reproduce the form that took him to victory at the Tasmanian Tarmac Challenge earlier this month.

Held over the Melbourne Cup long-weekend in Victoria’s north east, the Mt Buller Sprint is an gruelling 16 kilometre drive up the tarmac access road to one of Australia’s premier ski resorts.

With the support of Les Walkden Rallying, Lonhurst is coming to grips with the challenges of tarmac rallying after years of circuit racing.

This weekend he will once again have regular co-driver, Jahmeil Taylor, calling the pacenotes, and they hope to improve on their fourth-placing last year at Mt Buller.

“Over the events we’ve done this year, Jahmeil and I have really started to gel together as a team, and our speed on events has improved as a result,” Longhurst said.

“Jahmeil has been a great mentor for me as my rallying career has evolved, and it’s been great to work with her, and with Castrol and LWR, on our program of tarmac events.

“I think that we’ve probably increased our speed by around one second per kilometre this year, so we’ll be heading into the Mt Buller Sprint with victory as the target,” Longhurst added.

“We were the fastest car on the last two runs at Mt Buller last year, so we head into the event with a great set-up on the Subaru, and we should be well and truly in the top three.”

The real challenge at Mt Buller is the changing weather and the different altitude between the start of each run (at the bottom of the mountain), and the finish, at the top.

“It can be a real issue, and it means that tyre choice is vital,” Longhurst said. “If it’s wet, then water running across the road can also be a major problem.”

After winning in wet weather in Tasmania last month, the forecast wet conditions shouldn’t be a problem for the Queenslander, but he admits that every event offers a driving challenge.

His main opposition will come from a pair of Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggeras, driven by former Targa Tasmania winner Jason White, and South Australia’s Kevin Weeks, while another Subaru Impreza WRX STI, piloted by Simon Gillett, is also expected to match it with the front runners.

“In one way it’s good for us that former winner Jim Richards isn’t in the field this year, but the two Lamborghinis will be very fast, so we’ll need to be on our game right from the start.”

Team owner, Les Walkden, will also take the wheel after returning to competitive driving last month. With the experienced Linda Long in the co-drivers’ seat, the former Tasmanian Rally Champion will do battle with a host of high performance super cars in an event that is regarded as one of the country’s most competitive.

“After a few years retired, it was great to get back back behind the wheel in Tassie last month. I really enjoyed the chance to drive the Subaru on tarmac - although Linda (Long) kept slowing me down, telling me that the goal was to finish the event,” Walkden joked.

“But Mt Buller’s a different event again, with four runs up the mountain over two days. It’s a matter of being clean and tidy and keeping out of trouble, ensuring the boys in the service park don’t have too much to do!”

After shakedown runs on Saturday afternoon, the official timed runs of the Mt Buller Sprint get underway on Sunday morning. Two runs up the mountain on day one are followed by a further two on Monday.

Over 55 cars will start the event, with vehicles ranging from the familiar LWR Subaru Impreza WRX STIs, right through to Porsches, Mitsubishi Lancer Evos, Nissan Skylines, Chevrolets and BMWs.

Results over the weekend will be available from the event website at:
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