Driving a 72-year old car for six days over some of the most challenging roads in Australia might not be everyone’s idea of fun, but for retired Hobart Professor, Michael Clark, it’s a real adrenalin rush.

Clark’s 1937 Riley 12/4 “Brooklands” Special is one of the loves of his life, and will tackle Australia’s ultimate tarmac rally, Targa Tasmania, for the second time when the event gets underway on April 28.

As an added bonus, Clark and his Riley will be the Flag Car for Targa Tasmania, leading the field from each day’s start for the entire duration of the rally. The vehicle chosen represents the philosophy and spirit of Targa Tasmania - an international event for Sports and Grand Touring cars and cars of distinction.

Clark, 65, will be co-driven by his son, Andrew, 32, in the event, and although they have little motorsport background, they did contest the 2007 Targa Tasmania Tour together.

The beautiful 1937 Riley was fully restored over a three year period between 2005 and 2007, with the majority of the work completed by Historic and Vintage Restorations in Blackburn, Victoria. The restoration included fitting a new aluminium body to the car.

“It is essentially a faithful copy of vehicles raced at Brooklands and elsewhere in the 1930s,” Clark explains. “These cars were renowned for their reliability and speed for their size, often winning the under 1500cc class in many races of the period.

“Some of these racing cars were factory built as Riley TT Sprites, while others were privately constructed from sports saloons such as Riley Kestrels or Riley Falcons. The running gear from our car is from a 1937 Riley Falcon that was exported from the UK in 1938.”

The car runs with essentially no modifications, aside from changes to suit the current fuel and driving conditions, but competing in a diverse event such as Targa Tasmania does create its challenges.

“We aim to be competitive in our class and the Vintage class overall, but we are really hoping for warm and dry weather as we have no weather protection whatsoever,” Clark adds.

“Competing in an event like Targa is a real adrenaline surge – have you ever driven a 1930s racer?” he asks.

The self-sponsored father and son team can’t wait for the event to start, with motorsport just one of many things the pair have in common. Michael is a retired University Professor and medical researcher, while Andrew is a current Medical Practitioner.

Their car of choice may be one of the oldest and slowest in the event, but you can be certain that it will be one of the most popular as the event passes through Tasmania over the six days of the rally.

Targa Tasmania 2009 begins with a prologue through the streets of Georgetown on Tuesday, April 28, with the action proper getting underway the next day.

While primarily based in Launceston, the event will have an overnight stop in Strahan on the west coast of the Apple Isle, before finishing in the capital, Hobart, on Sunday, May 3.
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