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Proof that this weekend's Tasmanian round of the NEC Australian Rally Championship (ARC) really is the state's premier gravel rally, this year three competitors will make the trip from Victoria to contest the Subaru Safari Tasmania's 'piggy back' event the Tasmanian Rally Challenge (TRC).

While headlining the TRC's Victorian contingency from July 14 - 16 is the younger brother of current NEC ARC leader Toyota Racing Development's Simon Evans, Eli, who has spent most of this year abroad contesting rounds of the Asia Pacific Championship, his Victorian counterparts are two novices dying to get in amongst the action.

Greensborough-based Russell Thorpe who will contest the 520km long event in a 1968 Volvo 142S with his co-driver Steven Oake says his only claim to fame at this weekend will be having the oldest and slowest car on course.

“I certainly don't have the same killer instinct as the ARC guys and my car is likely to be the slowest, but this event is going to be so much fun,” says Thorpe who is a Project Manager for the Shell Oil Company.

Thorpe has been gravel rallying at a club since 1993 and has tried his hand at national events such as Rally Tasmania and Classic Adelaide. The 52-year-old says a 'piggy back' ARC event really is the ultimate for someone at his level of competition.

“I have never done an ARC event before and you get to follow the same roads, roads which are similar to ones I am used to competing on. Regardless of where I end up I am just going to go in and have a lot of fun.”

Needless to say the four other teams entered in the TRC doesn't say much in terms of numbers but the crews remain focussed on the great experience their weekend of rallying will be.  

“Tasmania is a great place and this event really has the potential to appeal to a lot of club level rally competitors,” continues Thorpe.

Thorpe's rallying mate and fellow member of the Historic Rally Association, one of Victoria's largest car clubs aimed at owners of pre-1980s vehicles, is Alex Kovacevic. Kovacevic is also making the trip south for this weekend's rally.

An owner of an auto mechanic business just outside of Melbourne, Kovacevic shares Thorpe's attraction to an event associated with a National rally series and says it doesn't get any better than mixing it up with the big boys without having to pay the big bucks.

“I am only interested in doing good events,” says the 48-year-old who will drive a 1980 Fiat 131 with his co-driver 29-year-old Kate Cotter. “The opportunity to enter an event which is a piggy back to an ARC round is just fantastic.”

The two Tasmanian teams who will be taking on the Victorians at this year's TRC include Hobart's rally twins James and Daniel Willson who will drive a 1990 Daihatsu Charade and Craig Sault and Fiona Mackie, both of Hobart, who have entered in a 1986 Holden Commodore.

A total of 22 teams will contest this year's Subaru Safari Tasmania from 14 - 16 July.

The 2006 course is set within the stunning Southern Forests of the Huon Valley, located about 60 kilometres South of Hobart. It is made up of about 520 kilometres, with approximately 180 being competitive.

The event is held over two separate competition heats over two days and will kick off with a Ceremonial Start this Friday July 14 on Elizabeth Street's main restaurant strip in North Hobart from 7pm.

NEC ARC entries include the Targa Tasmania 2006 dynamic duo Subaru-powered Dean Herridge and co-driver Bill Hayes who currently sit third on the Australian Rally Championship Driver's leader board, Toyota's Neal Bates and his co-driver Coral Taylor who are currently second and Bates' team mate Simon Evans and his co-driver (and wife) Sue who currently lead the Driver's Championship by 12 points.

For spectator and competition information on the Subaru Safari Tasmania visit the event website www.safaritasmania.com.au
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