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Targa Tasmania event director, Mark Perry, has assured competitors that Australia’s ultimate tarmac rally is here for the long term despite the economic downturn that is affecting the world generally, and motorsport specifically.

Speaking ahead of April’s 18th running of the event, Perry said that the disappearance of several high profile tarmac rallies in Australia during the past twelve months has impacted on the sport, but he hoped that many of the plans that Targa Tasmania has in place will ensure the viability of the rally well into the future.

“Over the past five to ten years quite a few tarmac events have started up and tried to capitilise on the good times. They’ve had some success as people have had the money to spend on pursuing their passion,” Perry said.

“But the supply of events has really been exceeding demand. The financial crisis is really the straw that has broken the camel’s back. A lot of events have been really struggling for competitor numbers for a couple of years.

“Fortunately for us, when people are cutting back they are focusing more on the big events that give them the week-long experience like ours,” Perry added.

“We offer a great value proposition. Six days of action, a lot of competitive kilometres, and all on some of the best roads in the world.”

However, despite Targa having the biggest profile of any mass participation tarmac rally in the world, Perry and his team at Octagon Australia are well aware that past success doesn’t guarantee future glory.

“My analogy with tarmac rallies using public roads is that they’re like nightclubs; you can be popular one minute and out of business the next. We need to stay relevant and actually build our appeal.

“Relevance goes beyond being a good event for the competitors that we need to attract. We need to be relevant to the community in which we operate and who we rely on in so many ways.

“Hence, we’ve introduced things like carbon emission programs with Greening Australia to ensure we are doing our part as a good citizen. We have moved to standard fuels for all cars and we are also creating opportunities for cars, like diesel and showroom cars, that haven’t traditionally been welcomed into these sorts of events.

“We’re in the fortunate position of being a big event with a reasonable budget and we can afford to invest a bit of money into our future. We have great private and public sector backing as well, and this also gives us an edge in positioning ourselves so we can look beyond the immediate and beyond the just organising an event.

“If we’re not seen to be more than just a car race, then it’s clear that our days are numbered.”

The economic impact to Tasmania of over ten million dollars has been well reported, but Targa Tasmania, and the Tasmanian Government, understand that the benefits are being reaped long after each event finishes.

“Every year people come to Tasmania just to drive the roads they’ve seen on television or in photos of Targa,” Perry adds. “They might have no interest in ever competing in Targa but they like what they’ve been exposed to through the event.

“It’s a bit like all the people that travel to Bathurst just to drive around the track at 60km/h. And no doubt, Eric Bana’s movie, Love the Beast, ensures our state, with its magnificent scenery and superb drives, is being showcased around this country and the world to further enhance our appeal.

“But these visitors end up in these little towns – not in Launceston or Hobart – but on the west coast, or in St Helens, Moles Creek and all sorts of other places, where they spend their money. Many of the tourists that stop at the local bakery and the petrol station, have come here on the back of Targa Tasmania.”

Perry’s point is proven with rental car company, Thrifty, having increased their fleet in Tasmania by 500 per cent in the last five years.

“Some of that has got to be because we’re out selling what an amazing road network we have in Tasmania. They might not come to visit the next week or the next month, but they’ll put it in their memory bank and eventually they’ll do it.”

“We believe Targa Tasmania runs for one week, but it brings benefits to the state for the other 51 weeks of the year as well. So we want our event to be around for a long time so we can keep doing that.”
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