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Multiple champions Jason and John White hold a slender 16 second lead in the overall battle after the opening day of Targa Tasmania that took the field out to St Helens and back to Launceston.

Jason White leads Targa Tasmania in his Dodge Viper after the first day. (Angryman Photography)Driving their 2016 Dodge Viper ACR Extreme, the Whites took to the damp conditions on the opening stages like ducks to water, to open a lead over the similar Dodge of Michael Pritchard and Gary Mourant, with 2016 champions Matt Close and Cameron Reeves in third place in their Porsche GT3.

In fourth place overall is motor racing veteran Paul Stokell in a Lotus Exige, while Ben Manion in a Subaru WRX STI rounds out the top five overall after a good drive in tough conditions.

The Targa field covered 73.30 competitive kilometres on the first of six days of the rally. Four of the seven stages were over 11km in length, making for a tough opening day.

The Whites only won two of the day’s stages, but showed why they are five-time Targa Tasmania winners with a masterful display of consistency and speed.

They admitted to driving conservatively throughout the first day, with plenty of speed still to come.

“We’re really happy with the result today – it’s actually the first time I’ve driven the Dodge in the wet on these tyres, and they’re something else – they’re quite phenomenal,” White said.

“It took a little while to adjust my driving style and the commitment levels, but we’ve had a couple of dry stages and Matt Close has taken back time on us in those.

“We could probably do that sort of pace in the dry too, but it’s not sustainable, so we’re praying for a bit more rain.

“We made our tyre choice based on expecting at least two days of wet for Targa this year,” he said.

The top three crews in the overall competition also hold those placings in the Wrest Point GT2 competition, while fourth placed Ben Manion is the clear leader in RDA Brakes GT4.

In a category dominated so far by Subaru WRXs, Manion holds the advantage over Trevor Macleod, with Angus Kennard the first non-Subaru in third, driving a Nissan GTR.

“We’re probably doing better than we expected for day one,” Manion explained.

“It’s my first time back in the car for a while and I’ve been driving rear-wheel drives, so it’s all been about getting my head back around how to drive an all-wheel drive again.

“I was glad to make it through the first few stages, which were fairly slippery.”

The Classic GT competition perhaps saw the drive of the first day from class leader Jon Siddins. His 1970 Datsun 240Z not only holds a one-and-a-half-minute advantage in its class, but sits an incredible sixth overall against much newer cars.

Targa veterans Peter and Sari Ullrich have dominated the first day in the Shannons Classic handicap competition and hold a commanding one minute and 47 second lead in their 1963 Jensen CV8. The battle for second is much closer, with just eight seconds separating David Gilliver’s 1979 Ferrari 308 GTS and Richard Woodward’s 1969 Holden Monaro GTS.

Other competition leaders are Adam Kaplan (2004 BMW M3 CSL) in Duttons Garage Early Modern, Jeff Morton (2017 Lotus Exige) in Country Club GT Sports Trophy, and Darryl Marshall (2002 Ford Falcon Ute) in the speed limited TSD Trophy class.

Tomorrow is the shortest day of Targa Tasmania, with only the 4.79km street stage around George Town to be completed. With a public holiday for Anzac Day, a big crowd of spectators is expected.

2017 Targa Tasmania, provisional results after Day 1

1. Jason White / John White, 2016 Dodge Viper ACR Extreme
2. Michael Pritchard / Gary Mourant, 2016 Dodge Viper ACR, +16s
3. Matt Close / Cameron Reeves, 2015 Porsche GT3, +37s
4. Paul Stokell / Jenny Cole, Lotus Exige, +1m14s
5. Ben Manion / Bernie Webb, 2010 Subaru WRX STI, +1m22s
6. Jon Siddins / Gina Siddins, 1970 Datsun 240Z, +1m23s
7. Trevor Macleod / Scott Hunter, Subaru WRX STI, +1m35s
8. Adam Kaplan/Aleshia Penney, 2004 BMW M3 CSL, +1m51s
9. Tony Quinn / Naomi Tillett, Porsche GT3, +1m56s
10. Angus Kennard / Ian Wheeler, 2015 Nissan GTR, +2m02s

WREST POINT GT21. Jason White / John White, 2016 Dodge Viper ACR Extreme
2. Michael Pritchard / Gary Mourant, 2016 Dodge Viper ACR, +16s
3. Matt Close / Cameron Reeves, 2015 Porsche GT3, +37s

1. Ben Manion / Bernie Webb, 2010 Subaru WRX STI
2. Trevor Macleod / Scott Hunter, Subaru WRX STI, +13s
3. Angus Kennard / Ian Wheeler, 2015 Nissan GTR, +40s

1. Peter Ullrich / Sari Ullrich, 1963 Jensen CV8
2. David Gilliver / Nigel Shellshear, 1979 Ferrari 308 GTS, +1m47s
3. Richard Woodward / Neil Gibson, 1969 Holden Monaro GTS, +1m55s

1. Jon Siddins / Gina Siddins, 1970 Datsun 240Z,
2. Mick Downey / Jarrod Van Den Akker, 1977 Holden Torana, +1m38s
3. Michael Bray / Daniel Bray, 1975 Holden Torana, +2m07s

1. Adam Kaplan / Aleshia Penney, 2004 BMW M3 CSL
2. Jon Mitchell / Joshua Sutclife, 2006 Subaru S204, +1m20s
3. Guy Lilleyman / John Lilleyman, 2006 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo, +1m42s

1. Jeff Morton / Dennis Neagle, 2017 Lotus Exige,
2. Richard Woodham / Marcus Towle, 2004 Subaru WRX, +1m27s
3. Jeff Beable / Nerida Beable, 2000 Nissan Skyline, +1m31s

1. Darryl Marshall / Peter Marshall, 2002 Ford Falcon Ute Pursuit 250, 19 points
2. Christopher Waldock / Christine Kirby, 2016 Jaguar F-Type SVR AWD, 53 points
3. Peter Lucas / Angela Coradine, 1984 Porsche Carrera, 64 points

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