Prolific tarmac rally winners Jason and John White are holding a slender lead after an enthralling tussle on the opening day of Targa High Country. The Whites negotiated eight competitive stages of the Mount Buller-based event, to lead the outright battle by 25 seconds. Melbourne competitor Matt Close and co-driver Cameron Reeves pushed the limits of their Porsche GT3 RS to be nicely poised for the second leg. Close made a great return to the Targa coalface after his heartbreaking final day crash at Targa Tasmania in April when trying to hunt down White. Close claimed two of the eight stages with White topping four tests. The pair were equal on the opening and third stages of the day. White is maintaining a rich vein of form which saw him bounce back to win Targa Tasmania and the inaugural Targa Great Barrier Reef in early September after failing to finish Targa North West in February. The ninth edition of Targa High Country has seen the best road rallying exponents in the country engaged in pitched battles over a total of 83.5km competitive distance. White, as ever, is keeping a close eye on the tyre wear in the rear-drive American machine. “A couple of stages were fairly relentless on tyre wear and we used a bit more rubber than we expected, which is not unusual for us,” White said. “Our biggest challenge is to make sure our tyres are good enough on the last day. “We’ll keep looking at them at the end of each stage and drive accordingly.” Jeff Morton and co-driver Stuart Benson made up a couple of positions on the final 18.29km run up Mount Buller. The pair slipped into third in their 2017 Lotus Exige, a further 1 minute 35 seconds behind the leader. The first three outright are also leading Mount Buller GT2 standings. Paul Stokell and Malcolm Read minimised risks and are sitting in sixth outright in their Lotus Exige. Another enthralling battle was unfolding in Shannons Classic GT until problems late saw Adam Kaplan and Aleshia Penney (Mazda RX7) drop out of the lead while Michael and Daniel Bray (Holden Torana) run out of fuel. Consequently, Mick Downey and Jarrod Van Den Akker have seized a sizeable class lead in their 1979 Holden Commodore. Graham Copeland and Josh Herbert have put their early exit from Targa Great Barrier Reef behind them to lead Shannons Classic Handicap by a slender nine seconds. Paul Dowie and co-driver James Marquet have enjoyed a stunning opening leg to lead RDA Brakes GT4 standings in their 2010 Audi TT RS Plus. The duo have established a solid 1 minute 16 second lead after the 2009 Nissan GTR of Geoffrey and Toni Hewitt leapt into second. In Dutton Garage Early Modern category, Liam and Larry Howarth have completed a solid days work to lead by 42 seconds. The class saw a tight three-car battle with Stephen Marlin and Stephen Horobin second while Tony Quinn and Kate Catford are third a further 14 seconds back. NSW pair Mark and Scott Meletopoulo are showing the way in GT Sports Trophy in their Lotus Exige S. The Lotus marque also fills second and third with Queenslanders Tony and Sandra Seymour (Exige) second ahead of Martin Duursma/Richard Wodhams (Exige Cup 430). In the Thoroughbred Trophy, Jack Waldron and Vin Gregory moved into the lead late in their Mitsubishi Sigma. Peter and Tristan Taylor (2013 Lotus Elise S) have executed a solid day to have a healthy points lead in TSD Trophy. The event continues across both Saturday and Sunday. OUTRIGHT 1 White/White (Dodge Viper) 2 Close/Reeves (Porsche GT3 RS) +25secs 3 Morton/Benson (Lotus Exige) +1min10secse 4 Dean/Hughes (Ford Shelby Mustang GT) +2secs 5 Roe/Lloyd (BMW M2) +2secs Mount Buller GT2 1 White/White (Dodge Viper) 2 Close/Reeves (Porsche GT3 RS) +25secs 3 Morton/Benson (Lotus Exige) +1min10secs RDA Brakes GT4 1 Dowie/Marquet (Audi TT RS Plus) =2 Williams/Bush (Audi TT RS) +1min16secs =2 Stokes/Stokes (Subaru Sti) - Shannons Classic GT 1 Kaplan/Penney (Mazda RX7) 2 Downey/Van Den Akker (Holden Commodore) +38secs 3 Lomman/Bainbridge (Datsun 240Z) +1min53secs Shannons Classic Handicap 1 Copeland/Herbert (1941 GMC Jimmy Special) 2 Byrne/Partridge (Alfa Romeo GTV 2000) +9secs 3 Gluskie/Winter (BMW 325i) +1min11s Dutton Garage Early Modern 1 Howarth/Howarth (Nissan Skyline GTR) 2 Marlin/Horobin (Mitsubishi Evo IX) +42secs 3 Quinn/Catford (Porsche 996 Turbo) +14secs Mansfield Shire GT Sports Trophy 1 Meletopoulo/Meletopoulo (Lotus Exige S) 2 Seymour/Seymour (Lotus Exige) +44secs 3 Duursma/Wodhams (Lotus Exige Cup 430) +55secs Mansfield Shire Thoroughbred Trophy 1 Waldron/Gregory (Mitsubishi Sigma) 2 Kelly/Kelly (Audi quattro coupe) +25secs 3 Currow/Carati (Fiat 124 AC) +5min44secs TSD Trophy 1 Taylor/Taylor (2013 Lotus Elise S) 5 points 2 Neville Edmond/Stephen Jones (1996 Volvo 850 wagon) 21 points =3 Gerry Bashford/Bob Watson (Mazda MX5 SE) 43 points =3 Matthew Jones/Jason Widdows (2006 Porsche 911) 43 points
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