The oldest car among the 200-plus entries for Targa Great Barrier Reef has been painstakingly rebuilt for the maiden event that will showcase Tropical North Queensland.
After claiming victory in the Shannons Classic category at Targa Tasmania in April, driver Graham Copeland has spent two months sourcing and replacing rare parts for the 1941 Jimmy Special who he shares with co-driver Josh Herbert.
The open-wheel machine see Copeland and Herbert occupy a handy lead in the points standings in their class going into the Cairns-based event which acts as the penultimate round of a four-round CAMS Australian Targa Championship.
“We’ve spent the last two months rebuilding the car after Targa Tasmania,” Copeland said.
“There were a few bits and pieces to source and replace. The last important part (rocker shaft) turned up from America just recently.
“Then we need to test it because we haven’t driven it since April.”
Copeland is guarded about the prospects of protecting his lead in the standings in the Shannons Classic ranks, citing the Atherton Tableland roads as a huge challenge for his machine.
“We’ve had a bit of a look at the course and our biggest concern is that there are a lot of downhills,” Copeland said.
“So given that we have four drum brakes it makes it reasonably exciting.
“That is going to be a challenge but it is a rally and a race so we will see how it goes.
“We are kind of expecting the afternoon downpours as well.
“So being on drum brakes, leaf springs and radial tyres it really throws up a test for us.
“We have a handy lead in the points but the fat lady is not even gargling yet. Driving these old jiggers you take nothing for granted.”
Competition for Copeland and his crew remain as strong as ever with chief rivals confirmed for the Queensland Targa leg.
“There’s a really competitive field going up to Cairns,” Copeland said.
“Nik Prieston and Dylan Braithwaite in the Fiat 131 Abarth are really strong and likewise Ashley Yelds and Charlie Hughes in the Volvo 122S.
“You look at Peter Gluskie and Samantha Winter in the BMW E30 325i who are strong and there’s probably up to 10 podium winners from past events who all going for this first Targa Great Barrier Reef.”
Copeland forecasts Targa Great Barrier Reef, which has struck a three-year deal to be based in Cairns, is destined to become an iconic event on the Australian motorsport calendar.
“I think the event will go on to bigger and better things,” Copeland said.
Townsville have got their Supercars event but while Cairns has a lot of car clubs they haven’t really had a signature motorsport event.
“This will give newcomers a great look at what Targa competition is all about.
“I just love tarmac rallying. I used to drive more modern cars but I’ve gone back to these old jiggers because its real seat-of-the-pants driving.
“There are no electronic aids. You’ve got to race and its pure driving.
“The Targa team run good events and sponsors like Shannons are great.
“Without them we wouldn’t have these opportunities.”
Targa Great Barrier Reef will start from the Cairns Reef Hotel Casino on August 31 before the field makes its way to the first of 18 stages at Green Hill.
Locals will also be able to get up close to the cars at Targafest, to be held on The Esplanade in Cairns on Saturday September 1 from 4pm to 9pm.
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