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What started as a day that promised rain and fast times for Mazda delivered frustration and some excitement with the two Mazda3 MPS rally cars hitting trouble at Targa Tasmania, while the RX-8 SP suffered gearbox trouble but moved up to seventh place outright.

Going into day four the leading Mazda3 MPS driven by Brendan Reeves was again lightning fast reaching the lunch stop in Penguin in high spirits after posting some fast times in the damp stages including the challenging Cethana stage. But then it went off the rails with the number 968 Mazda suffering a flat tyre half way into the 16.8km Rosebery stage – the second last stage of the day. The promising rally duo changed the tyre and under Targa regulations will be applied a two minute penalty.

Mazda is appealing the penalty.

“It’s heart wrenching to come all this way and get a tyre penalty despite looking after our rubber since day one. But we are still in third place and we will race hard to the final kilometre. So who knows.”

Despite the penalty Reeves and Smyth only dropped one position ending the day in third place in the Showroom competition.

By the lunch stop teammates Rick Bates and Anthony McLoughlin had already experienced trouble with their car losing turbo boost on Gunns Plains. They finished the day in sixth place in the Showroom class.

“Without a turbo we played tourist this afternoon with Anthony and I enjoying the scenery in this beautiful part of Australia a little more than usual. But we’ll be back tomorrow and if it’s wet we will be on it.”

The turbocharged RX-8 SP kept pressure on the race proven, leading exotica with driver Glenney and navigator Webb revelling in the tight and slippery stages that showcased the RX-8’s light weight, and perfect balance, while preserving tyres and brakes.

“We had a great time on Cethana with the RX-8 SP and it just got better after we softened the suspension, improving its handling and grip in the wet in the afternoon”.

Unfortunately the car lost all but fifth gear on the final Rinadeena stage of the day. But even then the car proved to be perhaps the best handling in the field. Glenney and Webb limited time loss by maintaining maximum speed through the wet corners and while they were passed by White’s leading Lamborghini on the open section of the stage, they kept with the Gallardo on the tight bits despite only having fifth gear.

“Despite the Italian supercar having all its gears, the RX-8 SP was able to keep up through the twisty bits with just one,” navigator Bernie Webb said.

Mazda motorsport manager Allan Horsley has experienced the highs and lows of competition before and is keeping the team firmly focused on tomorrow’s last day of competition.

“It isn’t over until it’s over,” said Horsley. “We know our cars are quick despite today’s dramas and we will keep intense pressure on our rivals. There is still a long way to go and our commitment to race as hard as we can until the flag falls is how we go motor racing.

“Our rivals are on softer tyres, which will have worn more than our mediums. Tomorrow is a new day, tomorrow is pay day.

“But this is only possible thanks to the passion and commitment of our mechanics and crew. They started work at 5am this morning, have driven about 400km, serviced the cars at various points throughout the day and will now put in another six hours under a hoist. So that’s close to a 20 hour day and this is day four and they face another big one tomorrow. An amazing job.”

Targa Tasmania’s final day of five competitive stages over 104 kilometres is known as the West Coast Trundle. The day starts from Strahan and concludes Sunday afternoon in Hobart.

Track the team’s progress at www.mazda.com.au/targa

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