The battle lines are drawn for an enthralling battle for outright honours in this year’s Shannons Classic competition in Targa Tasmania, with up to four Porsches and several home-grown Aussie muscle cars trying to grasp the silverware.

After storming home to his second Classic victory last year, Melbourne CSIRO laboratory manager Rex Broadbent clearly starts favourite in his 1974 Porsche RS replica.

Starting in much the same form as how it won both Targa and Classic Adelaide in 2007, the ‘Dial-Before-You-Dig’ Porsche has been bullet-proof in recent years and in Broadbent’s experienced hands always stays out of trouble.

However Broadbent’s long-time navigator and car preparer Michael Goedheer is sitting out this year’s Targa and Broadbent has a new navigator, New South Welshman John Lilleyman, in the left hand seat, potentially opening a chink in his armour.

It’s not that Lilleyman isn’t experienced – he’s a four-time Targa veteran and has 10 years in dirt rallying, both as a driver and navigator under his belt – it’s just that the pair won’t have even met until they arrive in Launceston and the all-important chemistry between driver and navigator so essential in Targa has yet to develop.

“I have no doubt that John will do an excellent job,” said Broadbent, “but yes, we will spend the first day or so getting to know each other.”

Their main on-paper rivals, the New South Wales crew of Bill Pye and Grant Geelan, have no such problems. They have been together now for five years, with Geelan not only calling the notes, but also responsible for their Porsche’s building and preparation. And this year they have a brand new car designed to secure them the elusive outright victory in the Shannons Classic competition.

Certainly they are overdue for a better Targa. After finishing second to the 1980 Ford Escort RS of Victoria’s Nick Ellis (in the rain) in 2004 in Pye’s Porsche 911 2.7 Carrera, Pye and Geelan had a 90-odd second lead on the field the following year in their later-model Porsche 911 Carrera 3.0 when they were ‘pinged’ for being one second too fast on a limited speed zone within sight of victory at Ellendale on Day 5 and copped a victory-crushing penalty.

Then in 2006 their engine’s ignition coil expired while they were about to start the very last stage of the event in New Norfolk when they had an even bigger two and a half minute lead.

Last year was better. They put the ‘green machine’ on the podium with victory in the Shannons Classic Handicap competition, but they still finished second to Broadbent in the Outright standings, which is one place less than their ambition.

“Our game plan is to win and to frighten a few of the Porsche boys in the Modern competition with their late model GT3s at the same time,” said an upbeat Pye.

He believes he now has the equipment to do the job. Over the past few months, Pye and Geelan have built a brand new Porsche Carrera RS replica from the acid-dipped bodyshell up. It’s orange, weighs 990kg and will have 340-350HP. That should make it both lighter and more powerful than Broadbent’s much older-build car.

However it’s all very new, having only hit the road less than two weeks before this year’s event, with Pye – a farmer - knocking up 700km on the roads around Goulburn and a number of laps of Wakefield Park race circuit to iron out any gremlins.

The other interesting difference between the Broadbent and Pye entries is their strategy.

Basically, Broadbent has a ‘dry’ set-up. He runs on 17-inch Kumho tyres using the medium front and hard rear compounds available and carries only a can of tyre sealant for a spare.

“If you have a simple puncture the sealant works, but if you take the sidewall out of a tyre, you’re out of contention anyway,” he reasons. “We don’t even bring a spare tyre over with us.”

This also means that he forfeits the opportunity to use up to six tyres without penalty under the Classic rules, something that Pye and Geelan and many other competitors take full advantage of.

The NSW crew on the other hand have a ‘wet’ set-up – something that has worked well for them in the past, particularly on the traditionally-damp final days in the North West of the State.

They will be running on 16-inch wheels using soft front and medium rear tyre compounds and somehow have managed to squeeze two spare wheels and tyres into the heavily-caged new car. Broadbent is hoping for sun; Pye prays for rain.

But if it’s wet, a third Porsche comes into Outright contention – the 1989 front-engined 944 S2 of Victorian Gavin James and Neil McLeod.

In the same car the pair have been consistent strong players in over the past seven Targa Tasmanias, consistently out-running many of the late model Porsches to finish just outside the Top 10 in the days when cars from 1983-1990 ran on equal terms with the likes of Jim Richards. But now they are front-runners in the Shannons Classic competition in the Early Modern category.

Last year James and McLeod took a sniff at the Classic lead until a rare gearbox problem sidelined them at the half-way mark, but there’s no doubting their speed if the well-balanced 944 S2 holds together this year.

Then there’s Victoria’s Peter Eames and Will Logan, who are running an ever-wider bodied (RSR) version of the 1974 model Porsche 911s favoured by Broadbent and Pye and reportedly with a very strong engine. You also can’t discount 10-time Targa veteran John Ireland, who has purchased Bill Pye’s ‘old’ green Carrera 3.0 Porsche for himself and his experienced navigator Mike Robot.

However all these Porsche players acknowledge that if it stays dry they could be breathing the rubber smoke of a number of the potent Australian muscle cars in the event – while their rubber lasts!

Popular IT professional Steve Coad is back with his bright orange 1973 Monaro which he managed to put onto the Classic podium last year in a personal-best result and having seen the potential, he has set his sights even higher this year.

With 650HP under his right foot and the proven ability to lay all of it on the line when others are lifting, Coad is a calculated risk-taker who will be in serious contention as long as the roads remain dry. And if they get wet, he will simply be simply spectacular!

Then there’s Tasmanians Kim Barwick and Paul Walker and David Cooper and Brad Sherriff in their similarly-fast 1977 Holden Torana A9X hatchbacks, Len and Gayle Catlin in their 1969 Boss Mustang 302 and Queenslanders Wayne Park and Graham Copeland in their rare and very potent 1967 Bizzarrini GT America coupe – perhaps not all front runners, but certainly Outright contenders and crowd-pleasers.
But not all Classic competitors are eyeing the podium. The majority are simply looking to enjoy their classics on some of the world’s finest driving roads, stay safe and return home with that most valuable of mementos – their Targa plate.

Entrants like Blue Mountains Jaguar enthusiast and marque insurer Geoff Bott and his co-driver, Sydney IT manager Brian Foster, who confidently expect the eyes of the world to be on them in their Targa Tasmania which they will tackle in the 1985 Jaguar XJS V12 that Bott originally purchased for $2,700 in 2006.

Now approaching an investment of $20,000 ‘ready to Targa’, the XJS in what could be a world first will be trialling a New Zealand-developed tracking system that will give a live feed back to, enabling anyone who has internet access to monitor the progress of the Jaguar en route during the five-day event.

The CAR703 entry is also aiding children with cancer. The XJS will carry the logo of the OCF organization and Bott hope to obtain the signatures of all the 600-plus Targa drivers and co-drivers on the Jaguar’s bonnet at official scrutineering. The plan is to auction the bonnet at the final presentation brunch, with all proceeds going to OCF.

Most of all, they plan to have fun.
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