Tasmanian Jason White is looking like the man to beat in this year’s Targa Wrest Point, upstaging his rivals in his Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera Type R on the opening day on the stages south of Hobart.

West Australian, Dean Herridge, is in second place, 26 seconds behind the Burnie driver, impressing in his Subaru Impreza WRX STI.

Another from the West, Steve Jones, is third, a further 12 seconds back, and he will be looking to charge home on Sunday in his Nissan GT-R. Reigning Targa Tasmania champion, Tony Quinn, also in a Nissan GT-R, was on the pace early, but slipped back to fourth as the opening day unfolded, over a minute in arrears of White.

Eight-time Targa Tasmania winner, Jim Richards, could not match the pace of his younger rivals in their Japanese machines, and is back in fifth place in his Porsche 911 GT2.

Leading the Classic Overall competition is John Ireland and Michael Robot in a 1977 Porsche 911, 53 seconds in front of Peter Eames in his 1974 Porsche 911. Bill Pye is third in his Porsche, after a fascinating day’s competition.

“I’m surprised to be leading actually, because I thought we’d dropped quite a bit of time on the second run through the Tahune stages, but our pace on other stages has been quite good,” Ireland said.

“The car has been sticking to the road like a leech in the rough sections, and we’ve managed to maintain a comfortable pace throughout the day. Anything can happen tomorrow, but I’m hopeful of getting to the finish in Hobart still in the lead.”

The Showroom category for stock-standard production cars is being headed by Tasmanian Tony Warren, just six seconds clear of motoring journalist, Dean Evans, both driving Mitsubishi Lancer Evo.

The second running of Targa Wrest Point is being run over 14 Targa stages, with a total competitive distance of 210 kilometres. Weather conditions on the first day of the two-day rally have been perfect, with dry roads and no chance of rain.

The highlight of the day was the run to and from the Tahune AirWalk, a pair of stages that were run twice during the day.

White’s pace across the day was hot, but it could have been even better.

“We had a few mechanical problems, the main one being that the car dropped the end off a spark plug and bent a valve on its way out as it’s tried to digest the broken pieces,” White said.

“It’s down to nine cylinders, but that’s still 450 horsepower, which is about as much as Dean Herridge has in his Subaru. So our power advantage has diminished, so it’s just a matter of adjusting the driving style accordingly. The stage times are still quite good, so we’re amazed and happy at the same time.

“With the drop in power we’re looking forward to any downhill sections tomorrow, but not the uphill sections, but hopefully the engine will last and we can get back to Hobart tomorrow still in the lead.”

Herridge was fifth in this event last year, but was quickest on two of the first three stages, and even he was surprised by his outright speed against the more powerful supercars.

“Yes, it was a surprise based on last year’s times from this event,” Herridge said.

“ We had a real crack – there’s not much left – so hopefully later in the event when some of the stages suit our car a bit better we can hold the others guys off that are behind us.

“Our speed is probably a combination of the car being sorted and us knowing the stages a little better than last year.”

Eight-time Targa Tasmania winner, tarmac rally legend Jim Richards, was unable to match the pace of the Japanese cars in his Porsche 911, despite the dry conditions suiting his car.

“We haven’t done a rally since Targa last year and the car feels really good, but of course the competition steps up too,” Richards said.

“The longer it goes the more young guys get involved and it gets harder and harder.”

“We love these events and we’ll continue to go in them. We’d love to win, don’t get me wrong, so we’ll just go as fast as we want to go and enjoy ourselves.

West Australian Steve Jones, also in a Nissan GT-R, crashed out of Targa Tasmania last year, but on his return to the island he has taken a more conservative approach.

“We learnt that Tasmania roads do bite at Targa Tasmania last year, so once we feel more comfortable we’ll go harder.”

“Quinn, White and Richards are very experienced and you know from the start that they’re consistently going to be quick.”

Modern results after Day One*

1. Jason White / John White, 2009 Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera Type R
2. Dean Herridge / Chris Murphy, 2008 Subaru Impreza WRX, +26s
3. Steve Jones / Ben Searcy, 2008 Nissan GT-R, +38s
4. Tony Quinn / Naomi Tillett, 2008 Nissan GT-R, +1m:06s
5. Jim Richards / Barry Oliver, 2008 Porsche 911 GT2 C2, +1:20

Classic Overall after Day One*

1. John Ireland / Michael Ribot, 1977 Porsche 911 Carrera 3,
2. Peter Eames / Will Logan, 1974 Porsche 911 Carrera RS, +53s
3. Bill Pye / Grant Geelan, 1974 Porsche 911 Carrera RS, +1m:21s
4.  Andy Clempson / Jervis Ward, 1965 Ford Mustang, +1:28
5. Drew Kent / Paul Krawczyk, 1971 Ford Falcon GT, +2:08

Showroom results – end Day 1*

1. Tony Warren / Nathasha Deniese, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX,
2. Dean Evans / Simone Bachmann,  Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X, +06s
3. Scott Millar / Christopher Dean, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X, +49s

Early Modern (1982 – 2002) results after Day One*

1. Chris Long / Anne Gigney, 1996 Porsche 993 Turbo
2. Richard Perini / Chris Perini, 2000 Porsche 911 GT3, +12s
3. Adam Newton / Daniel Lemish, 1997 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IV, +31s

Classic after Day One*

1. Peter Eames / Will Logan, 1974 Porsche 911 Carrera RS
3. Bill Pye / Grant Geelan, 1974 Porsche 911 Carrera RS, +28s
1. John Ireland / Michael Ribot, 1977 Porsche 911 Carrera 3, +2m:05s

 *N.B. Results exclude TS3.

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