The 17th running of Targa Tasmania has been given the nod as the best ever by competitors, according to event director, Mark Perry.

While Targa is an established part of Australia’s motorsport calendar, the event underwent many changes in 2008.

Competitors spent more nights in Launceston, less time on liaison between stages and took on a number of new stages.

Devenport hosted its first street stage, Strahan hosted its first overnight stop, and the Hobart Domain was returned to the competition schedule, and attracted a huge crowd.

Perry says he has been overwhelmed by the positive response from the competitors, and also delighted with how the event was viewed by sponsors and supporters.

“Any change means taking risks, but it seems like everything we have touched this year has turned to gold,” Perry said.

“Launceston provided a fantastic base for the first five nights of the event, and people really enjoyed staying in the city and not having to pack and unpack bags to move from city to city, as they have in the past.

“Running the Targa Expo for just one night meant a huge crowd turned up, which added great atmosphere to the night. Targa Fest, an initiative of the Launceston City Council on the Friday night, was enormous and gave the competitors a tremendous farewell from the city as they prepared to leave to go to Strahan.

“Strahan itself was superb. The enthusiasm of the Council and the people really made for a special stop,” he added.

“The effort the town went to in ensuring that everyone felt welcome was great. Before the event people were worried about the level of accommodation, but everyone fitted in on the West Coast and it was a big economic bonus to the community there.

“The Devonport street stage was made possible because the Council really wanted to be part of the show. It is not easy to pull that sort of stage together, but they did, and it was a great show for everyone.
“I’ve got to say that the Tasmanian media were really superb as well. Newspaper coverage was brilliant; the television stations were able to capture the excitement of the stages, and there was radio coverage. We were thrilled that the ABC, and 7LA, in Launceston both committed to outside broadcasts during Targa.

Perry said that it was the competitors that make Targa Tasmania what it is, and that without them, the state would lose the economic benefit that the event brings.

“That’s why we have to keep it fresh. Give them something different, maintain key elements, but keep the dream of Targa alive for them all,” said.

“We had the biggest field ever this year and we want even more in 2009. Given the number who have come up and spoken to me, called me and sent me emails, we are on a winner.

“We’ll undertake a full and formal review with all the stakeholders before we decide on the format for next year, but it’s fair to say that many of the changes made will stay and be further refined.

“But we’re open to ideas and people with a vision as to how they can help make the event work for their community as well.

“So I expect that the phone will keep on ringing,” Perry said.

The 18th running of Targa Tasmania, in 2009, will be held from April 28 to May 3.
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