2016Competition Reports

2016 Targa Tasmania

Then 25 years later, it was TT16

April 2016

Report by Brian Dermott. Pics by Angryman Photography

To all those in the HTCAV who I have ever tried to persuade to have a go at a Targa event, especially Targa Tasmania, I’m sorry. If you haven’t tried it yet, forget it. You’re too late.

Not because the Targa has finished, far from it, the events are going from strength to strength and TT16 just had the biggest field of classics for many years to celebrate the 25th Anniversary. And more and more ‘starter’ events are being invented all the time and demand for non competitive and speed limited competitions is increasing.

No, the reason is more annoying than that – it’s the return of the handicap competition to replace the outright results based on the master base time with a handicap method which is extremely unfair to pre-73 touring cars, favoring European marques and open to manipulatation by the organisers. The final hit to HTCAV interest is that Targa now won’t produce the scratch results, so we can’t run our Rally Championship.

HTCAV members are racers. They spend many hours in the seat of their racecars every year, have excellent car control, understand what it takes to prep a car to win, know how to get the most out of a corner. Every time an HTCAV racer has entered a Targa event – Hollywood, Horatio, Ralphy, Russell Pilven – it’s been a good showing. Rally people liked that, liked the racer mentality and the Championship and rallyers were joining the Club.

The handicap takes the form of a number of seconds a minute which is added to the master base time – the higher the number, the longer you have to clean the stage. The numbers are calculated in class boxes from the age group of car (indicator of technology), the size group of engine (indicator of power) and the the level of modification (indicator of stage performance) but it’s a secret formula not open to appeal or enquiry.

The classic competition now goes right up to 1985 so the technology goes from cart springs, side valves and 3-speeds to turbo 5 cylinder 4WD with fuel injection and ifs/irs. And although the levels of modification are classified into Standard, Limited and Modified, the standard spec allows many free components – wheels and tyres, most suspension items, many engine aspects including head modifications. Limted Modified is like Group N but with bigger wheels and brakes.

So the winner of Targa Tasmania Classic in its anniversary year was what most of us would call a modern 1982 Porsche 944 running in standard specification which enjoyed an absurd 14 MINUTE handicap advantage over course of 517 competitive kilometres compared to Drew Kent’s 1971 Ford Falcon GT and Richard Woodward’s 69 Monaro GTS – even the little BMW 2002 of Steve McClintock had to give away over a minute to the slick modern Porsche.

Our 1971 Torana LC XU1 had to give the winning 944 a start of 12 minutes or some four laps of Bathurst. Poor Warren Bossie’s beautiful and genuine LJ XU1 was a further two minutes behind that – Targa officials refuse to believe that an LC in LMS is the same as an LJ. While on the Torana topic, it seems that a Targa official must have a particular dislike of the mighty six. We have to give the Jensen with its 800 Nm Chrysler 8 litre a four and a half minute start while only enjoying two minutes over the Falcon and Monaro.

In spite of all this, Targa Tasmania remains the biggest adventure for an amateur enthusiast. The easy bit is driving – finding the apex and committing very hard when the road is closed and someone has just told you what to expect, comes naturally after a bit.

But the logistics are harder – organising the support crew, planning the fuel stops, service places with a hoist, accommodation, meals and travel for a week when a thousand others are competing with you for the good spots, is also an essential part of success. Sound boring ? Not when you can DNF by failing to get 20 litres just where you need it in the middle of nowhere.

So how did the pre 73 touring cars end up in 2016 ?

Not too well. There were a lot of entries – 24 pre-73 historic touring cars or 41% of the total classic field – but there were only three cars in the top 10, five in the top 15:

In second position were Pete and Sari Ullrich in the familiar Jensen CV8 after a very fraught event involving ChemiWeld and axle locating pins, followed in P5 by Steve McClintock and Jann Skinner in their BMW 2002.

Third touring car despite a tough handicap, was a great result for local star Drew Kent and son Fletcher in the well proven Ford GT, fully recovered from the oopsie on Cethana in 2014. Next was Woody with temporary navigator Jim Forrest in the Yellow Monaro followed at a polite distance by Lin and I, having our last TT in 403.

We were doing many PBs with the Harrop enhanced XU1 and just to squeeze ahead of two little cars making the most of their handicaps – Will Walker’s well prepared 1964 Cooper S and that most formidable Scotsman, Andy Bryson in the Hillman Imp.

Eighth home out of 24 was the remarkable ex Carrera Mexicana FJ Holden prepared by Rare Spares and normally driven by Director Dave Ryan but this time the very fast Kym De Britt was substituting. In between little problems the FJ was doing amazing times.

This year, four of the usual touring car front runners, past winners and potential winners, stumbled – Andy White and Ash Yelds in the Amazon were dogged by an unhappy head gasket and despite Andy’s wife bringing the spare head over on Jetstar, it could not be persuaded to work properly.

The Priddles suffered ‘Fly Shit Problems” (what are they Bob?) and promised to come back next year with the Zephyr in hammer mode. And poor Colin Byrne with new navigator Mike Partridge got caught out on a greasy Woodbridge by a crashed Tour car displaying neither triangles nor ok board. The beautifully rebuilt Alfa bore some fresh battle scars and the crew were notably grumpy.

Earlier in the event on Cethana, the Steuarts had to move over a long way to let an overtake past and getting the Anglia back on the road Ross broke an axle and missed too many stages getting it fixed.

TT16 was mainly sunny and we all got to do the legendary stages in the dry such as Rianna and Arrowsmith and Sideling and Cethana. For old timers like us that is a rare treat – usually Tassies’ diesel smeared roads present a big car control challenge.

If you didn’t enjoy this event, then tarmac rallying is really not for you – and it might not be anyway unless you get a car which is favoured by the handicap, which is unlikely to be anything made in Australia or the USA.

And there are few of those in the HTCAV.