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With a slogan “so good on fuel you can race it”, a Perth team is aiming their modest tradies’ ute at a podium finish in the Quit Targa West tarmac rally starting today.

The Volkswagen Amarok of Mike Kennedy and Kerry Wade will be an unusual sight for spectators amid a thoroughbred field of almost 80 cars including Porsches, Ford Mustangs, Corvettes and Alfa Romeos on the demanding four-day event.

If a trophy is on the cards for Kennedy and Wade, they will need to remember the racing adage “to finish first, first you must finish” as they attempt to eke 820 kilometres of competition and liaison stages from one 80-litre tank of diesel fuel.

While the ute sips 8.3 litres per hundred kilometres in normal use, Kennedy says consumption will soar when running at up to 130 kmh in the Challenge Modern category; he’ll have a 20-litre jerry can on standby in case they run out.

The entry is an openly commercial bid to promote the economy of the Volkswagen automatic, which Kennedy sells at a Welshpool dealership, but he and Wade are serious competitors.

Kennedy has competed five times in Quit Targa West and twice each in Targa Tasmania and Targa New Zealand. Wade is a multiple State champion driver and raced V8 Supercars at Bathurst.

“The Volkswagen is a plain-jane, stock-as-a-rock ute right down to the tyres,” Kennedy said.

“We’re competing in the Challenge Modern category, so we won’t need a roll cage or any special equipment. We’ve just pulled a vehicle off the showroom floor and stickered it up.”

Stepping down from his Brock-replica Holden V8 to a four-pot diesel workhorse, Kennedy says rain would provide the best chance to even the contest.

“We’re up against a Monaro, a Corvette, a GT40 and some other fast cars, but we’ve got four-wheel drive. If it rains, we’re in with a red-hot crack.”

Quit Targa West Clerk of Course Ross Tapper welcomed the diesel ute entry.

“We always aim to present a wide variety of cars for spectators’ enjoyment and the ute is certainly unusual. But more than just a novelty, it will demonstrate that in these changing times a modern diesel is capable of sporting performance and superior economy,” he said.

“I hope that in future events we’ll accept not only more efficient diesels,  but also hybrids and perhaps even the all-electric cars that are now entering the Australian market.”

Quit Targa West starts with the Go Gear Prologue in White Park from 1.30pm today and finishes with podium presentations in Plain Street, East Perth, at 4pm on Sunday.
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