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The 2008 Targa Tasmania got underway with the official Temco Prologue in George Town on Tuesday afternoon, with Matt Close setting the fastest time for the second year running.

Driving a 2000 Porsche 911 Turbo, the Burnie-born Close was 2.2 seconds faster than Kevin Weeks in his 2007 Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera, with eight-time Targa winner Jim Richards, driving his 2008 Porsche 911 GT2 third, a further 1.72 seconds back.

The battle among the Classic cars was also tight, with pre-event favourite Bill Pye first, 3.86 seconds clear of arch-rival and 2007 Targa Classic Champion, Rex Broadbent. Both are driving 1974 Porsches - the Carrera 911 RS, but there is now considerable doubt if Pye’s car will make it to the start line at the Country Club on Wednesday morning after experiencing mechanical problems following the Prologue.

Leading the way in the 2WD Showroom class in the 4.88 kilometre sprint around the street’s of George Town was Rick Bates in a Mazda3 MPS, who finished 4.47 seconds clear of his Mazda teammate Alister McRae. Reining Australian Rally Champion, Simon Evans, is in third place, a further 2.80 seconds back.

The leading 4WD Showroom class competitor was Greg Burrowes, just 0.23 seconds ahead of fellow Queenslander Scott Millar, with South Australian Malcolm Klopp another 0.51 seconds back. All three are behind the wheel of Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IXs.

It was expected that one of the great battles of the 17th running of Targa would be the Broadbent and Pye dual in the Classics.

Pye is still hoping that he can complete the event, despite the set-back today when he noticed a problem on the road returning to Launceston.

“We’re possibly not out yet and we’ll try and fix the engine this evening,” Pye said.

“It appears that a bearing has failed in the engine, leaving a slight noise and we have discovered metal in the oil. But you never know, the boys will work on it tonight and we might be OK for tomorrow.”

Matt Close, who grew up in Penguin on the northwest coast of Tasmania, was delighted to demonstrate his speed again on the Prologue, completing the loop two seconds quicker than in 2007. Last year he could not sustain the pace, but he’s hoping to stay near the pointy end of the field for the entire five days of competition this year.

“It’s nice to back the Prologue win up again from last year,” Close said. “I felt we did it easier this time - the car was bouncing all over the place last year, so we’re very happy with that.

“Last year we were a bit on the ragged edge and we knew that we didn’t have a very good package. It was a bit too stiff, so we’ve softened it right off and we’re a bit more confident that it’s going to be better for us on the first few days of Targa.

“Hopefully we can stay in the mix in the top five and capitalise on that at the end of the rally.”

Rick Bates, competing in the inaugural 2WD Showroom class, was delighted to produce such a quick time.

“Targa is the kind of event that is very easy for me to settle back in to,” Bates said.

“Today’s Prologue was a good opportunity to get reacquainted with the Mazda3 MPS and get back into the groove.

“The car went well and it was also great that Alister (McRae) is right behind me, especially since this is his first Targa.

Temco Prologue Classic Results
1 Bill Pye, Grant Geelan, 3.22.12,
2 Rex Broadbent, John Lillyman, 3.25.98, +3.86
3 Gavin James, Neil McLeod, 3.27.58, +5.46
4 David Morton, Malcolm McDonald, 3.29.50, +7.38
5 Steve Coad, Rachael Coad, 3.29.52, +7.40
6 Hans DeCorti, Mark DeCorti, 3.30.19, +8.07

Targa 2008 Georgetown Temco Prologue Modern Results
1 Matt Close, Casey Close, 3.12.72,
2 Kevin Weeks, Rebecca Crunkhorn, 3.14.92, +2.20secs
3 Jim Richards, Barry Oliver, 3.16.64, +3.92
4 Matthew Heskin, Melanie Aitken, 3.17.92, +5.20
5 Steve Glenney, Bernie Webb, 3.18.72, +6.00
6 Jason White, John White, 3.19.86, +00.07.14

Temco Prologue Showroom 2WD Results
1 Rick Bates, Rhianon Smyth, 3.32.58,
2 Alister McRae, Iain Stewart, 3.37.05, +4.47 secs
3 Simon Evans, , 3.39.85, +7.27

Temco Prologue Showroom 4WD Results
1 Greg Burrowes, Rhonda Burrowes, 3.37.60,
2 Scott Millar, Christopher Dean, 3.37.83, +0.23 ecs
3 Malcolm Klopp, Damien Pearce, 3.38.84, +1.24

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