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Queenslander Tony Quinn has set the early pace in the modern car section of Targa Tasmania, holding a narrow lead at the end of the opening day, which included nine testing stages in the state’s north.

Quinn, driving the latest Nissan GTR, is six seconds clear of Tasmanian hope Jason White, in his striking Lamborghini. Eight-time winner, Jim Richards, is third, a further two seconds back.

A surprise leader of the Classic car section is Queenslander Ben Wooster driving a 1990 Nissan Skyline GTS, who has powered ahead of his rivals in the dry conditions. He finished the day 23 seconds clear of Bill Pye’s 1974 Porsche 911, with Gavin James third, 38 seconds off the lead in a 1988 Porsche 944. Launceston’s David Cooper lies fourth in a 1977 Holden Torana A9X.

The Showroom class produced plenty of drama. Winner of the Prologue, Rod Salmon, crashed out on the final stage of the day on Quamby Brook. Both he and co-driver Samantha Stevens are okay, but class leader Greg Johnston has one less rival to contend with in his quest for class honours after a dominant performance on the opening day.

The northern loop of Targa Tasmania saw dry clear conditions, but modern category leader Quinn believes he is perfectly placed, particularly if the weather forecast comes true and rain follows the field later in the week.

"The day has been fantastic,” Quinn said.

“Our strategy was to keep with the leaders until the rain comes, and then to see what we can do. If we are within cooee of the leaders, or about 20-25 seconds behind, we'll be fine, hard to beat. If it doesn't rain, we'll just have to press a bit harder."

Despite being in second place, White was frustrated after a day that had produced problems when he lost the GPS system that he uses to provide pace notes.

"We had to show a bit of caution a few times today when we weren’t picking up any satellites for the GPS unit which displays our pacenotes, so we had to drive through a fair bit of the Sheffield stage blind.

“Hopefully we don’t have that problem again and we can stay somewhere in the top five."

Richards knows that it is not just Quinn and White he has to worry about.
Driving a two-wheel drive Porsche GT2, he knows rain is his enemy.
“To stay in front we need no rain, and everyone else to go slower than us,” a dry Richards said.

Pre-event Classic favourite, Rex Broadbent, was still suffering from the flu on the opening day, and he has a tough job ahead to catch the early leader, Ben Wooster.

"We're flabbergasted to be in the position where we are in - I've never been more surprised about anything in my life,” Wooster said of his lead position.
“We found the early stages this morning were fairly bumpy, but Kayena is one of my favourite stages, so we had a good crack at that, and we've just been enjoying this afternoon.

“We just have to keep in the groove, the car feels fairly good and the tyres don't seem to be wearing too badly at this stage. Whether it's wet or dry is not really a concern, the car is pretty good considering what it is."

The Showroom category has been a real battle between the four-wheel drive Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9s and the factory-backed Mazda 3 MPSs.

Greg Johnston is a surprise leader in his Lancer, just ahead of the similar car of last year’s winner Tony Warren. However, it’s the performances of the front-wheel drive Mazdas of young gun Brendan Reeves, and his team-mate, Rick Bates, which has got everyone talking.

The fine weather is playing into the hands of the Mazda drivers, but they should still be off the pace of their turbocharged rivals, making their performances even more impressive.

Thursday sees a further nine stages to St Helens and back to Launceston. The classic Sideling stage is the second of the day, a tough beginning that might set the tone for the remainder of the day.
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