Major finishes on top and Holden wins classic battle
Patchy rain and a storm forecast didn’t deter hundreds of motorsport fans who flocked to Malaga and also the City, lining Victoria Avenue and Riverside Drive to cheer on Quit Targa West competitors as they crossed the finish line on the last stage of Perth’s premier tarmac rally.
Day 4 started in Malaga with an exciting 9-kilometre street stage run three times, with crowds entertained by the smoking sideways action of Australian Drift Grand Prix cars in between stages.
From Malaga, competitors tackled the final three stages, the 2.15 kilometre Targa City Sprint Stage which challenged competitors with its superkhana-style design that commanded precision driving before demonstrating the full extent of their power along the long straight of Riverside Drive.
Peter Major in Modern Competition category and Sharon Gunson in Modern Challenge category were both on a hat trick this year, going for their third consecutive win. The battle everyone was watching was in the Classic Competition between Ford and Holden respective drivers, Simon Gunson a two-time Targa West winner and Mick Bray.
Competitors are divided into Competition and Challenge categories with classes for Modern and Classic cars in each. The Challenge category is for showroom style or non-roll caged vehicles. Vehicles manufactured earlier than 1985 are classed as Classic and the Modern class for vehicles manufacture from 1986 onwards. There’s also an award for the Quit Targa West Rallye Rookie (first timer).
Driving most of Quit Targa West without ABS in his 2004 Porsche 996, braking was extremely tricky particularly in wet conditions for Peter Major. Undeterred, he and co-driver Ben Searcy finished fastest, taking the top step on the podium.
Coming into the event on a hat trick, Major said he was thrilled with a win, this one his fifth at Targa West.
Leading by 29 seconds at the start of the final day, Quit Targa West was Major’s to lose.
“I’m really happy and I’m stoked to be going out on a high,” said Major, referring to his earlier announcement that this would be his last Targa West as he shifts his focus to his young family, business and other motorsport pursuits.
“It feels awesome, there’s been lots of emotion with this rally – lots of changing conditions and we’ve had issues with no ABS, aquaplaning on the wet stages and a few other niggling things we’ve had to nurse most of the rally – so it’s good to finish,” the 32-year-old father of two said.
Major joked and said that if no one buys his winning 2004 Porsche 996 he could be back next year and ‘do a John Farnham and keep coming back’.
Major / Searcy held off Peter Rullo and James Marquet all rally, finishing 24 seconds faster.
Rullo / Marquet in their 2012 Nissan GTR pushed hard all rally trying to catch Major after losing time on Friday’s opening stage. They managed to claw back more than half of the deficit but it wasn’t enough to take the top step, thus finished second.
“We were on the limit that’s for sure. This morning, every road was different with the wet weather, patches of sun drying the roads, some roads had more grip than others, but the car has been performing well, hasn’t missed a beat,” Rullo said.
Rullo said he was happy to have completed every stage of Quit Targa West after being plagued with mechanic issues every year since 2011.
“I’m happy we finished and I’d like to thank the crew for making the car reliable – we’ve been chasing this for a while now and although we came here to win, second is a pretty good result, in fact my best result to date,” said Rullo, who finished third at Targa West in 2010.
Finishing third and also taking the Targa Cup win was Will White and Matt Thompson in their 2006 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9, supported by Store Local.
“I’m ecstatic! The car has held together well, the service crew has done a great job and my navigator has done a good job,” a jovial White said.
“Yesterday, the car was smoking like chimney – we changed the oil using a different brand and it stopped. Everything has just come together well, so I’m very happy.
“After winning Targa South West and a few Targa Rally Sprints events, taking the Targa Cup title here is just brilliant.”
The Targa Cup is awarded to the top placed rally driver who has competed in the new tarmac series that includes in its portfolio of events Targa Sprints and Targa South West.
Motorsport legend Jim Richards and his co-driver Barry Oliver had a great time at Targa West, finishing in ninth place.
“We enjoy Targa West and come here for Shannons. I like the shorter stages and the fact they are run multiple times – you improve with each run. It’s a well organised event, the locals are friendly and Barry and I always have a good time here,” the seven-time Bathurst winner and four-time Australian Touring Car Champion said.
The rivalry between Ford and Holden continued with a fierce battle in the Competition Classic category.
Simon Gunson and Murray Armenti in their 1971 Ford Capri Perana started Leg 3 with a 12-second lead over rivals Mick Bray and Daniel Bray in their 1975 Holden Torana.
During Malaga’s opening stage, the heavens opened and rain bucketed down during Gunson’s run, forcing him to back off the pace, while Bray / Bray had a relatively dry run going flat out to finish 16 seconds faster.
Trailing by 7 seconds, Gunson / Armenti spent the remainder of the day pushing hard trying to close the gap on the Bray brothers.
Mick Bray said that he went into today with a plan.
“If we wanted to win, we had to go hard this morning and come out really fast, so that’s what we did. However, I lost a bit of time when I clipped a gutter in the second stage today so stopped pushing then,” Bray said.
“The battle with Gunson was good fun but intense and I’m really happy with a win,” Bray said.
This is the first time Bray has finished Quit Targa West; his previous attempt in 2012 was a DNF.
The Bray brothers finished 9 seconds ahead of two-time Targa winners Gunson / Armenti.
“We’ve had a ball and the battle with Bray came down to the wire,” Gunson said.
“The weather played a part and we pushed to catch him but and I only ever drive to my ability and don’t take too many risks – if the results come they come. I’m happy with our results,” the Ford Capri driver said.
In third place is 11-time Targa West veteran Simon Lingford and Avril Curtis in their 1973 Datsun 240Z.
Lingford, who in this car was the fastest privateer in the London to Sydney Marathon in 2000, said he was very happy to finish.
“We’ve managed lots of issues and managed to keep the car going until the end, so I’m delighted. We’ve had no instruments – no speedo, no taco, no oil pressure and the rest since Thursday night. We’ve had gearbox issues that we’ve had to nurse and a misfire that we couldn’t locate, so it’s an achievement just to finish, and amazing to finish third. I loved all the stages and we’ve a great time,” Lingford said.
Celebrating a hat trick, Sharon Gunson and co-driver Helen Lunsmann of GTi Girls Racing in a 2001 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 7 is the most successful all-female team in Targa West’s history.
Dubbed the ‘Challenge Queen’ by her husband Simon Gunson, this is her fourth Targa West win.
Sharon said that their plan was to cruise today and defend their lead over rookies Nick Bailey and Kyle O’Neil in a 2010 Volkswagen Golf GTI.
“It’s spectacular to have a hat trick!” Sharon Gunson said.
“We’ve been really lucky with the weather and Helen has done a great job with the notes. Overall it’s been amazing and I feel fantastic.”
Second place in Challenge Modern category were rookies Nick Bailey and Kyle O’Neil in a 2010 Volkswagen Golf GTI, 2:40 minutes behind.
In the Challenge Classic, a category for showroom or non-roll caged cars manufactured before 1986, Justin Gan and Greg Levene took title honours in their 1978 Porsche 911SC.
Steve Cherry and Glyn Crimp finished second in their bright red 1982 Toyota Starlet. And in third place, was Bob Fisher with his son co-driver Robbie Fisher in their 1967 Triumph TR4a.
New this year was the Targa Tour, a spirited drive behind a lead car along the same stages the competitors race, albeit not timed. All that’s required to participate is a road car and a helmet. It’s designed to give those interested in tarmac rallying a taste of the sport.
Targa Tour leader and rally champion Dean Herridge said the group had a good time.
“Rally is a specialised sport and the Targa Tour is great entry level way for people to learn about rallying. There’s no pressure, you don’t need a heap of gear and it’s good value,” Herridge said.
“The spirit and camaraderie in the rally community is something special and it’s what keeps so many of us in the sport for so long – it was wonderful to share that with those in the Targa Tour.
“My wife Natalie was my co-driver on the tour and that was her first experience in the hot seat – we had a ball. It’s always nice to spend time with my wife,” Herridge said with a smile.