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Two-time Rallye Burnie winner, Jim Richards, believes weather may play a big part in determining the winner of the event this weekend.

Richards, who will compete in a two-wheel drive Porsche GT3 RS, faces the challenge for the title from a host of four-wheel-drive Subarus and Mitsubishis.

While Richards deserves to start as the pre-race favourite given his impressive record in Tasmania over the past decade, he knows that Grant Denyer and Brendan Reeves, in a Subaru Impreza WRX STI, and Tony Quinn and Jamie Vandenberg, both in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo, will be hard to beat, particularly if it is wet.

“We like it dry,” said Richards. “Two-wheel drive is not an advantage in the wet.”

Richards may well get his wish as the forecast is for a dry weekend. But the weather in the north-west of Tasmania is notoriously fickle, so it might well play into the hands of his all-wheel drive rivals.

Richards has been in top form this year. He took the same car to victory in Targa West in Western Australia a fortnight ago and at the Lake Mountain Sprint in May, and he finished second in Targa Tasmania in April.

“The approach this weekend is no different,” Richards said. “You traverse the roads as quick as you can and hope that is fast enough to win.”

Jamie Vandenberg holds the hopes of the locals and he admits to feeling the weight of some pre-event expectations.

“I feel a little bit of pressure but I’m going into the event quietly confident,” Vandenberg said.

“We know the roads well, so that is definitely an advantage. It means that we can pick the places where we can push a little harder. It probably doesn’t make us any faster, just more consistent.”

“The rally fraternity is pretty strong around here so it’s great that people are right behind the event.”

Tony Quinn has raced Porsches for many years, but this weekend he’s behind the wheel of a Lancer.

“I only drove the car for the first time in anger today,” Quinn said.

“It felt alright. It is not as fast as my Porsche but we’ll just see how we go. It might be deceptively quick.”

“We’ll adopt the same approach as always. Go flat chat from the start and see how we go.”

“But I don’t think people should judge us or the car until Sunday, as it’s a brand new combination and it’s a bit much to expect us to be on the pace right from the start.”

The Les Walkden Rallying outfit has two cars running this weekend, with Denyer at the control of one and the youngest man in the field, Brendan Reeves in the other.

Reeves has never raced in a tarmac rally before but is looking forward to the challenge.

“It was good today to go out in the wet this morning and then have a drive in the dry this afternoon,” Reeves said. “It means we’ve experienced it all before the rally gets underway.”

“The biggest difference between driving on the tarmac compared to the gravel is I know I have to keep the car as straight as possible here. You can’t throw the car around like I’m used to but the car is great to drive. It’s got a much bigger power range in the car, with a lot more torque to play with.”

The event gets underway Saturday with the first car tackling the Wandle River stage at 8:22am. The day takes in 78.4 competitive kilometres across nine special stages.

Heat Two in Sunday sees a further 79.86 competitive kilometres and eight stages, with the final stage talking place in Waratah at 3:40pm.
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