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As Mazda’s three-car team reaches the half-way mark at Targa Tasmania the Mazda RX-8 SP is the fastest two-wheel drive in modern and eighth outright, while both Mazda3 MPS rally cars continue to chase the Showroom lead.

The unproven Mazda RX-8 SP, steered by reigning Targa champion Steve Glenney, performed beyond expectation over today’s eight stages.

Demonstrating the true potential of the turbocharged rotary coupe Glenney brilliantly manoeuvred the lightweight, rear-wheel drive sports car across the day’s collection of open and flowing plains and tight and twisting mountain passes.

Despite ongoing gremlins with his car Glenney, and co-driver Bernie Webb, were consistently on the pace and hit day four hot on the heels of more powerful and more expensive four-wheel drive rally exotica.

“We had a great today, all in all very consistent and very clean,” said Glenney. “We’re only half way so there’s still a lot more ground to cover.

“There were a lot of long straights out there today and they tend to suit our larger and more powerful rivals, so I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s collection of tight and twisting mountain stages where the RX-8 SP will really hold its own.”

The Mazda RX-8 SP will start day four, the event’s longest competition leg, in eighth position with a penalty time of seven minutes and 24 seconds. Seventh place is a mere 37 seconds from their reach.

Brendan Reeves is leading the two-wheel drive Showroom charge in his near-standard Mazda3 MPS. Reeves and his co-driver Rhianon Smyth are second in Showroom overall and are 16th outright in the modern standings.

The 20-year-old Targa first-timer was consistently quicker than his Mazda3 MPS team-mate Rick Bates, and bettered the time of the leading four-wheel drive Mitsubishi Evo on three of the day’s stages.

“It was a tough day today but tomorrow is longer so we need to stay focused on getting through each day,” said Reeves. “We’re half-way through the rally and we’ve got plenty of rubber left on our tyres so everything seems to be coming together.”

Morning showers worked in favour of Mazda3 MPS pilot Rick Bates and his co-driver Anthony McLoughlin who clocked the fastest showroom time on the first and only wet stage of the day.
Bates who is famous for his wet weather expertise, is keen to see the heavens open up again.

“I knew there would be rain on this event so our strategy has been to conserve tyres in order to be well positioned to take advantage of the wet conditions.”

Bates starts day three in 18th outright in the modern car section and only 39 seconds behind Reeves.

Mazda motorsport boss Allan Horsley is delighted with his team’s progress but is well aware that day four really does separate the men from the boys.

“Tomorrow is undoubtedly the most challenging day of Targa Tasmania,” said Horsley. “There are two stages over 30km; including Cethana, which many consider to be one of the greatest and most challenging tarmac rally stages in the world.

“Tomorrow Brendan, Rick and Steve all have one objective – to get their cars safely to Strahan.”
The Mazda team wrapped up day three of Targa Tasmania at the event’s Targa Fest street expo in Launceston.

Saturday sees the cars travel 450km from Launceston, north to Penguin for lunch and finishing on the West Coast in Strahan. The North West Challenge comprises 141 competitive kilometres and is the longest leg of the event.

Track the team’s progress at www.mazda.com.au/targa

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