He may have only contested Targa Tasmania for the first time in 2008, but there’s every suggestion that NSW driver Rod Salmon will be one of the leading Showroom class cars when this year’s event reaches its climax on May 3.

As the winner of the Bathurst 12 Hour race for the past two years, Salmon comes into this year’s event with a motorsport achievement list as long as his arm: Targa Tasmania, Targa Wrest Point, Bathurst 12 Hour, V8 Supercars, Bathurst 24 Hour, Australian Rally Championship and the Round Australia Trial, just to name a few.

Together with his co-driver, 30-year old Sydney motoring journalist Samantha Stevens, they are one of the crews who could set tongues wagging as the six-day tarmac rally progresses.

They both believe that Targa Tasmania is “the best rally in the world”, and while their first aim is to finish the event, they are clearly targeting a win in the Showroom Category.

The Showroom class was introduced for the first time in 2008, and along with Modern and Classic, is one of the three key categories of the event.

Their brand new 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X has been prepared by Team Mitsubishi Ralliart and should be more than capable of setting the Targa Tasmania stages alight.

"It's the perfect follow up from our second straight win at the Bathurst 12 Hour - for myself, TMR and the Skwirk Evo X to come to another public road circuit and show everyone what we've got,” Salmon says.

"After coming top 10 at Targa Wrest Point in last year's Bathurst 12-hour winning Evo IX, we are hoping to do the same at Targa this year in a brand new car.

“It won’t be easy though. We hope to be at the front end of the field, but there are plenty of guys who will make it tough.

“Last year’s Showroom winner, Tony Warren, is a local in a well sorted Evo IX, and he’ll be hard to beat. Our new Evo X is a little heavier than the Evo IX, so it will be interesting to see how the cars compare.”

Salmon won’t drive the new car until a few days before Targa Tasmania begins, but is confident that the Alan Heaphy / Team Mitsubishi Ralliart built car will be fast straight out of the box.

“We’ve driven a standard Evo X around Tasmania while making our pacenotes, and it has loved it,” Salmon adds. “I can’t wait to get the rally car out onto the stages.”

Salmon and Stevens teamed together at last year’s Mt Buller Sprint, and also at the inaugural Targa Wrest Point at the end of January, where they finished eighth in an older model Lancer.

With the new Evo X, and with the full support of Team Mitsubishi Ralliart, they are hopeful that the new car will have the speed and performance to make them one of the crews to watch in Targa.

Salmon and Stevens’ entry in Targa Tasmania is being supported by Skwirk.com, Team Mitsubishi Ralliart, The Wentworth Hotel, Tarmac Magazine and Horseyard.com.au

"We are trying something different with the Evo X and TMR, as it's a new car and the 4WD Showroom class suits it perfectly at this stage of its production life,” co-driver Samantha Stevens added.

"As a journalist, it's fantastic to take a standard Mitsubishi Evo X around the island for recce, and then fang one with limited mods around the same roads a fortnight later. What a great way to test a car!"

Samantha currently stars as a judge on this year's Fox 8 prime time car show, Blood Sweat and Gears, which airs at 9.30pm on Monday nights.

The 18th Targa Tasmania begins with a prologue in Georgetown on April 28. Primarily based in Launceston, the event also spends one night in the west coast town of Strahan, before finishing in Hobart on May 3.
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