Burnie’s fastest lawn mower salesman, Jamie Vandenberg, has mown down the opposition in Heat 1 of the Tasmanian Tarmac Challenge.

He used his local knowledge to great advantage to head home former Bathurst 1000 winner Tony Longhurst, and two-time former world rowing champion, Simon Gillet.

In the classic rally, Victorian Brett Kay was the pacesetter in his Mazda RX7, beating home the more fancied Cameron Wearing in a Ford Capri Perana.

Driving a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX with his brother, Simon, calling the pacenotes, Vandenberg set up his win with a blistering time on the first run through the famed Hellyer Gorge stage this morning.

“We had really good day that’s for sure,” Vandenberg said. “We got off to a good start and put a bit of time between us and the rest the first time through Hellyer.

“We were a bit slow on the Savage River stage as we were trying to look after the car, but on the second time through Hellyer we were quick again.

“Our only problem was on Savage River this afternoon when I selected reverse, not fourth gear, so we don’t have reverse anymore. We’ll have to decide if we have time to fit a new gearbox tonight, or leave it in and take the risk for tomorrow.”

Longhurst and co-driver, Jahmeil Taylor, had a consistent day in their Subaru Impreza WRX, gradually reeling in the similar car of Gillet to take second place.

“I’d have been okay if we could ban local cars sponsored by lawnmower companies,” Longhurst joked about the Vandenbergs.

“I was a bit lazy on the opening stage and he got away on me a bit. But the car was great and the tyres worked well.

“It might seem strange driving a four-wheel drive car, but I’m hoping for dry conditions tomorrow because what we had today, which was dry and wet on the same stage, was really hard to pick and made it hard to attack.”

Gillet was rapt with his third placing, but knows that his stage times could have been even better had it not been for an engine computer problem.

“We had a reasonable day, but we did suffer a lot of computer problems. One the way out of the Savage River stage alone, the engine cut out six times. It was pretty frustrating, but we made it through.”

It wasn’t such a good story for pre-event favourite Jim Richards, who led the field away from the start in Burnie this morning. He suffered turbo boost problems in his Porsche 911 GT2 and was forced to withdraw after special stage three. His crew were able to fix the problem, and he completed the day’s final stages.
“The pipe to the intercooler manifold came off and we couldn’t get at it to fix it, so we were forced out, which was a shame,” the seven-time Bathurst 1000 winner said.

“Once we got it fixed it was all okay. The wet roads today were no good for us and we’re hoping for a dry day tomorrow – but the weather forecast doesn’t look too promising!”

Veteran circuit racer, Tony Quinn, finished fourth after a troublefree day in his Mitsubishi, while Peter Leemhuis rounded out the top five in his Nissan GTR 32.

An impressive eighth on his debut drive for the Mazda Motorsport team was 20-year old Brendan Reeves. Despite using tyres that were too hard for the wet conditions, he finished the day unscathed.

“The car has a 2.3 litre engine and has heaps of power, so it spins the wheels very easily. It’s got heaps of grip in the dry, but like everyone, it’s a lot tougher in the wet,” Reeves explained.

“We passed a Porsche on the two long stages today, which was quite interesting. He had more power than us getting out of the corners, but we caught him under braking and in the corners, so it made for some exciting driving.”

Classic rally winner, Brett Kay, was surprised with his Heat 1 victory after losing his windscreen wipers early in the day. Nevertheless, his Rotary-powered Mazda RX7 was the car to catch.

“Once the wipers failed the trust between driver and co-driver went up quite a few notches,” Kay said. “I couldn’t always see clearly, so concentration and trust in my co-driver had to be 100 per cent.”

Second placed Cameron Wearing struggled to get enough heat into the rear tyres of his power V8 Ford Capri and couldn’t repeat his Rally Tasmania victory from earlier in the year.

“We really struggled to get heat into the tyres, and that cost us a lot of time,” he said. “On Savage River it wasn’t until the 18 kilometre mark that we got the tyres up to temperature – just seven kilometres before the finish.”

“I thought we’d be much quicker. Hopefully we will be tomorrow.”

Third place in the Classic rally was Steven Cadden in a Porsche 911, just ahead of the popular Holden Torana A9X of Donn Todd.

The Tasmanian Tarmac Challenge continues tomorrow morning with Heat 2, starting at 7.30am. Crews face a further five stages and 88 competitive kilometres, before the podium finish back at Burnie’s West Park tomorrow afternoon.

Tasmanian Tarmac Challenge – Heat 1

Results – Modern

1 J Vandenberg/S Vandenberg, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9, 46 minutes 56.9 seconds
2 T Longhurst/ J Taylor, Subaru Impreza WRX STI, +25.2 secs (behind leader)
3 S Gillet/K Norton, Subaru Impreza WRX STI, +31.5secs
4 Tony Quinn/K Wenn, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9, +1:19.0
5 P Leemhuis/N Deniese, Nissan GTR32, +1:33.1
6 T Alford/K Handley, Nissan GTR 35, +2:27.9
7 D Walden/R Ferguson, Subaru Impreza WRX STI, +2:30.3
8 B Reeves/R Smyth, Mazda3 MPS, 2:31.9
9 S Bartter/I Wheeler, Subaru Impreza WRX STI, +2:49.5
10 G James/N McLeod, Porsche 944 S2, +2:52.1

Results – Classic

1. B Kay/S Jack, Mazda RS7, 51 minutes 51.1 seconds
2. C Wearing/B Fitzsimons, Ford Capri Perana, +7.1 seconds
3. S Cadden/S Strik, Porsche 911, +1:43.2
4. D Todd/D Tighe, Holden Torana A9X, +2;05.4
5. G Crimp/P Van der Mey, Porsche GTS Rallye, +2:23.6
6. G Tierney/D Carra, Porsche Carrera RS, +3;10.5
7. R Lowe/P Lowe, Datsun 240Z, +3:34.6
8. P Cochrane/G McLane, Ford Mustand, +5:55.5

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