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Australia’s top tarmac rally drivers are all gunning for the title as the inaugural winner of Targa High Country, the first round of the new Octagon-owned Australian Targa Championship.

The new event will be based on Mt Buller from November 5 to 7 with a capacity field of 225 cars that includes several Targa Tasmania winners, led by seven-time winner Jim Richards, reigning champion Jason White, and former title holders Steve Glenney and Tony Quinn.

White’s 2009 Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera Type R is one of the most potent and expensive cars in the field. As the leading driving in tarmac rallying in Australia, he’s approaching Targa High Country with great enthusiasm.

“The new event should be a great challenge, and I’m really looking forward to it,” the Tasmanian said. “Mt Buller is a great place to base a rally, and with the selection of roads on offer over the three days, it should provide great competition.”

White, who will be co-driven by his uncle, John White, sees the factory-supported Mazda RX8 SP of South Australian Steve Glenney as his biggest threat for victory.

“Our aim is to win every event we enter but I think, for sure, Steve will be right on the pace at Targa High Country,” White said.

“When the Mazda was running well at Targa Tasmania earlier this year he was the man to catch, and with further development of his car, he’ll be very fast.”

Despite his Mazda only sporting rear-wheel drive, compared to the Lamborghini’s four driving wheels, Glenney is confident of success.

“We know we have the package to mix it with the front runners, and since Targa Tasmania we’ve developed the brakes and suspension even further, so I’m really excited about our chances in the new event,” Glenney said.

“It’s a great course that shouldn’t favour any particular car, and the roads are some of the most challenging in the country.

“Jason White is the benchmark to beat, but there are other guys to worry about too. Hopefully the brilliantly balanced chassis of the RX8 will enable us to achieve the result we’ve been working hard to achieve.”

Jim Richards’ twin-turbo Porsche 911 GT2 is also a two-wheel drive car, and while the veteran driver knows he’ll struggle if the weather is wet and slippery, if the event is dry he’ll be a hard man to catch.

“The car was competitive against the 4WD Nissan GT-Rs in the recent Targa West, and we’re hoping for a similar performance at Targa High Country,” Richards said.

“We’ve done the pre-event reconnaissance, we think the stages will suit the Porsche and we’re really looking forward to the new event.”

2009 Targa Tasmania winner Tony Quinn will come into the event in good form, having won the five-day Targa New Zealand the week before Targa High Country.

The laconic Scotsman is yet to have a look at the new stages, but in typical fashion, said that reconnaissance is a bit over rated.

“To be honest, I think doing the recce can be a bit confusing as a lot of guys try to memorise the roads, and you can’t do that in a long event,” he said.

“But I’ll be going out there to drive as fast as I can, and we’ll see where we end up.

“It’s just great to be able to use the public roads for events like these. Motorsport is a drug, and while it’s nice to be driving a competitive car, I’d drive a Mini Moke if that’s all I had.”

The Targa High Country field includes competitions for cars in the Early Classic, Late Classic, Early Modern, Modern and Showroom classes with most major makes of vehicle represented.

After a 3.5 kilometre prologue stage around the streets of Mansfield on Friday afternoon, the event consists of eight Targa stages on Saturday and Sunday with a total competitive distance of 213 kilometres.

Saturday heads north to Wangaratta via Whitfield and return, while Sunday’s stages head south to Eildon via Jamieson. Both days will conclude with a 16 kilometre stage up Mt Buller.
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