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Somersby couple Peter and Sari Ullrich are one example of a growing trend of husband and wife teams competing in Targa Tasmania, Australia’s ultimate tarmac rally.

While this will be 54-year old Peter’s tenth Targa, it will be the third he has tackled with his wife Sari, 51. They are both boat builders in Somersby, and use the event as a stress release from the hustle and bustle of the business world.

Their best Targa Tasmania result to date is eighth in 2006, and this year they will contest the Early Classic Competition driving a beautiful 1963 Jensen CV8 that they purchased in 2003.

“The car was first registered October 1963 in the UK, and then shipped to Australia sometime in late 70’s,” Peter said. “It was then retired to a shed in Kalgoorlie, WA, in the mid 90s, and purchased by us to replace our Chevrolet powered Daimler SP250 Targa car in 2003.

“It was fully deconstructed and rebuilt for the 2004 event. It has an original 383 motor which is bored and stroked to 421cu/in, Brembo brakes, and a custom dogbox.”

Self sponsored, the Ullrichs list their three children as their major sponsors, although “they just don’t know it yet!”

On a more serious note, Peter says that the fabulous organisation of an amazing group of keen and friendly volunteers keeps them coming back to Targa Tasmania every year.

“It all combines to facilitate competing on awesome roads through some of the world’s most beautiful country, in the company of driving legends in a collection of spectacular cars.”

The Ullrichs are entering this year’s event with the hope of finishing on the podium in the Early Classic class, but know that in an event that covers six gruelling days, it’s a goal that might be hard to achieve.

“Having stepped out of podium positions due to various mechanical failures in the past, we would really like to finish top three. The problem is that these classic race vehicles are incredibly over-stressed at this level of competition,” Peter adds.

The weather will, as usual, play an important role in Targa. Like the majority of crews, the Ullrichs are hoping for dry conditions, not only for themselves, but also for their dedicated service crew who look after the Jensen during the event.

“We have a regular team with our main man and organiser, Chris Guthrie, from the Central Coast, and Tassie local Roger Carter, with an assistant from Carter Motorsport in Smithtown.”

Like a good number of Targa Tasmania competitors, Peter and Sari Ullrich are on the ‘other’ side of 50. But despite this, they don’t find it difficult to keep fronting up for six consecutive days of the event.

“Targa is the world’s longest adrenaline rush. Tiring yes, but so rewarding,” Peter said. “Punting a 45-year old, 600hp stagecoach around these roads is physically demanding, but the hardest part is the mental effort required to pace your vehicle’s reliability with the times you require to remain competitive.

“You must also make constant compromises with available service time and the work required on the vehicles overnight. It’s not uncommon to go into a day’s competition with a gear missing or a broken engine mount as there were other more pressing issues requiring attention.

“This, of course, means adjusting driving styles or nursing components to the next evening. Having raced for half a day in the past with only fourth gear and disintegrating bearings, the mental effort of trying to nurse something like that, while still maintaining reasonable times, is draining.”

Ensuring the Tasmania economy benefits significantly from Targa Tasmania, the Ullrichs estimate that they’ll spend around $14,000 in Tasmania during the rally, including food, fuel and accommodation.

Targa Tasmania 2009, the 18th running of the world-renowned event, begins with a prologue through the streets of George Town on Tuesday, April 28, with the action proper getting underway the next day.

While primarily based in Launceston, the event will have an overnight stop in Strahan on the west coast of the Apple Isle, before finishing in the capital, Hobart, on Sunday, May 3.
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