Denmark’s Alan Simonsen has set the early pace in the Modern competition on the opening day of 2007 Targa Tasmania, presented by Pure Tasmania, finishing 10 seconds ahead of Tasmanian Jason White and his Lamborghini Super Leggera.

Tony Sullens will start tomorrow 24 seconds off the lead in his Subaru Impreza WRX, six seconds clear of eight-time Targa Tasmania Champion Jim Richards.

Leading from the front in the Shannons Classic section, as he has done until the final moments of the past three Targas, is NSW driver Bill Pye in his 1977 Porsche Carrera 3.0.

But hot on his tail, and just 15 seconds behind on provisional results, is the front-engined 1989 Porsche 944 S2 of Victorian Gavin James, with a five second lead over former Shannons Classic winner Rex Broadbent in his 1974 Porsche 911 RSR replica.

Back in 54th place and still coming to grips with the power of his V8 Supercar spec-1974 Ford XB Coupe is Eric Bana with navigator Tony Ramunno.

Simonsen, driving the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 prepared by Launceston’s Les Walkden Rallying, produced a highly impressive performance in his Targa Tasmania debut.

The 28-year-old only arrived in Tasmania yesterday morning, having flown in from Monza, Italy, after finishing third in the Le Mans Series on the weekend.

The wet conditions clearly suited Simonsen and his all-wheel drive.

“It was all clean and smooth today without feeling like we had to push too hard,” Simonsen said.

“We’re looking forward to doing the long haul down to Hobart and hopefully it goes as well tomorrow.”

White was another to benefit from having four-wheel drive.

“Our stage times have been a little bit off, but overall I don’t think we’ve lost too much,” he said.

“There’s a lot of reasons for that, but nothing specific. We’ve still got a few gremlins with the car.”

Sullens was another in a quick AWD car, his Subaru Impreza WRX clocking consistently good times, and he could have done even better had luck gone his way.

“I got stuck behind a slower car in the Devonport stage, we lost probably 8 or 9 seconds, but apart from that its been going really well.”

“We caught him in chicane and he probably didn’t see us.”

Richard’s two wheel drive Porsche 911 GT3 performed strongly, but the seasoned campaigner admitted he and navigator Barry Oliver would need to pick up the pace.

“We’re dropping a little bit of time, not as much as we thought, because we’re just not fast enough,” he said.

“The car’s going really great, it’s just that the ones that are going faster than us are better.”

Competitors will contest another nine stages tomorrow as the event travels Tasmania’s challenging East Coast roads, finishing with a night stage at the Derwent Entertainment Centre at Glenorchy.

Top 4 – Modern outright
1 Simonsen +8 secs
2 White + 18 secs
3 Sullens +32 secs
4 Richards +38 secs

Top 4 – Shannons Classic outright
1 Pye +1min 42 secs
2 James +1min 57 secs
3 Broadbent +2 mins 02 secs
4 Coad +2mins 11 secs


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