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Targa High Country ready to roar this weekend

Matt Close will start Targa High Country as the favourite for outright victory. Photo: Angryman Photography

The annual Targa High Country returns to the north east this weekend for three days of fast-paced rally action.

Nearly 140 cars will head off from Mount Buller on Friday morning, ahead of 18 closed road tarmac stages, with some of the country’s best tarmac rally drivers in action.

Now in its eighth year, Targa High Country is one of the most anticipated events on the rally calendar. Competitors love the diversity of the stages, including the exciting street stage around Mansfield on Saturday afternoon.

Friday’s route heads from Mount Buller to Euroa and back, on Saturday the event winds its way to Whitfield and back, while the final day, Sunday, sees crews tackle the testing roads to and from Eildon.

The highlight of this year’s event will be the Mansfield street stage from 2.30pm on Saturday afternoon, followed by the popular Targafest at 4.00pm.

All Targa cars will be on display in the main street of Mansfield at the completion of Saturday’s stages, given spectators the opportunity to get up close to the competition cars, chat to the drivers, and get autographs.

In the battle for overall honours former Targa Tasmania winner, Matt Close, heads the list of contenders in his 2017 Porsche GT3, and in the absence of fierce rival and multiple Targa winner Jason White, Close will be the man to catch.

Close’s closest challenger is likely to be local Shepparton driver, Alan Roe, driving a 2016 BMW M2. This is Roe’s home Targa event, and he’ll be eager to put on a good show for his local fans, and come home with a podium finish – and possibly even an upset win.

With dry conditions expected, the two-wheel drive Porsches seven-time Bathurst, and eight-time Targa Tasmania winner Jim Richards (911 GT3 RS), Peter Nunn (GTS) and John Ireland will all be battling it out for a top five finish.

However, if the spring weather lives up to its reputation and rain is encountered, then you can add into the mix the four-wheel drive brigade.

Angus Kennard and his Nissan GTR will be hoping for wet weather in this weekend’s Targa High Country. Photo: Angryman Photography

Angus Kennard and his 2015 Nissan GTR should be the fastest, but Barrie Smith’s 2017 Audi TT RS and Ed Kreamer’s 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X are among many who will also be there or thereabouts.

While the modern cars should set the outright pace, the battle throughout the classic ranks will be one that enthrals spectators who line the route.

Matt Selley’s 1985 Hartge H35-24 is one to watch as will be the battle between veteran Roger Lomman’s 1971 Datsun 240Z and Mansfield’s own combination of Brian and Linda Dermott are sure to attract the biggest cheers in their 1971 Holden Torana XU1.

Another local, Albury TV and radio personality, Steve Bowen, will be out to impress in his brightly coloured Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X.

Targa High Country also includes a speed-limited GT Sports Trophy category, in which regular winner, Alan Gluyas, will be the man to catch in his 2014 Renault Megane. He’ll come under strong pressure from Martin Duursma’s 2013 Lotus Exige V6.

There’s also a big entry in the Targa High Country Tour, where cars without roll cages can complete the full course.

Strictly speed limited, the tour includes a group of cars from the Delatite Car Club, with club members keen to experience what Targa High Country has to offer.

For full spectator and event details about this year’s Targa High Country, including road closure information, visit the event’s website at www.targa.com.au

Peter has been the editor of RallySport Magazine since its inception in 1989, in both printed and online form. He is a long-time competitor, event organiser and official, as well as working in the media.

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