Targa Tasmania 2014 – ‘On for Young and Old’
6-11 May 2014
Story by Brian Dermott. Pics by Perfect Prints
When Big Targa 2014 was to run in May, we all knew it would be wet. First, three sunny days to wear out the tyres then pissing wet down the West Coast on the remnants. Except that competitors can now have eight tyres and bolt on four fresh super softs to gain five secs per km in really wet and cold conditions on those wonderful diesel smeared Tassie roads. (On a budget, Mr and Mrs Tattle ran AO50 mediums and slid about a lot).
Pre-73 touring cars were five more than last year at 20 entries, with another in the two-day Rookie Rally. This was the strongest showing for several years, boosted by some new faces – young, successful and enthusiastic racers in ancient classic tourers. The old folk were going to be under pressure.
Favourites were Andy Medieke and (youthful) pace note guru Daniel Willson in the Perana, a new car with more power and a more compliant setup. Last years’ podium stars were there, the Ullrich’s Jensen, the Freestones in the (12.44 sec standing quarter) Holden 215 and Richard Woodward’s well known yellow 69 Monaro GTS, now in limited modified spec. More familiar faces – Andy White and Ash Yelds in the Assassin Blue Volvo Amazon, Ross and Jill Steuert in the ‘go flat-out everywhere’ Anglia. Lin and I were trying just to finish after three disappointing events in the Kermit green LC XU1 – motto: ‘No Mistakes”.
Other notables included the Priddle family in a much hotter 61 Zephyr, the Byrne family in matching Alfas and the redoubtable Wayne Pfingst and John Loth in the Yellow Torana XU4 (it’s got 4 doors, right). And from WA, Mike Moylan and Don Behets in the gorgeous – and gigantic – 1964 Ford Galaxie Factory Lightweight. And at the complete opposite extreme, Jack Waldron and Ken Gregory were lining up again in the familiar and minuscule Fiat Abarth for a rally in Tasmania.
Then there were the young bloods. Zac Caudo from the family winery at Hogwash Bend on the Murray brought his upgraded Datsun 1200, now with flares and bigger wheels and more grunt, looking to repeat his great Targa Wrest Point result. In the under-supported two-day Rookie Rally, Sam Livesley – in his first ever motor sport event – had his black Dromana-based Torana LJ up against fierce modern competition.
And in a most impressive display from Muswellbrook in the Hunter Valley came the ‘Boys from the Bush’ in a pair of beautifully prepared HQs with 202s and five-speeds, sponsored by Osborn Transport. These are HQ racers: Darren Meyer and David Redgrove and the 2013 NSW HQ Champion Brett Osborn, with Greg King. They had the racers’ confidence in their own ability so didn’t bother with wussy pace notes. But they had understood the need for team work in tarmac rallying and came well prepared with mates for service and support.
In warm sunshine the field headed off to the Prologue stages and immediately the Medieke Perana was in trouble, finishing 36 instead of the expected 1st. That allowed the pre-73 Prologue podium to look like the Awards Night with the Ullrich’s Jensen ahead of the Freestone’s Early Model and Richard Woodward’s 69 Monaro.
The young Musswellbrook HQ racers had a great start when the Meyer-Redgrove car read the big red arrows marking the George Town circuit well to come in 20th and ahead of many more experienced pre-73 competitors.
Next day and Leg One saw the Perana back in a big lead which it would hold until a suspension breakage on the hostile Sideling Stage on Leg 2, when the 38-minute penalty put the favourites out of contention. They would be back running the next day and set a series of fastest times – including going a minute faster than the winning RX7 on the wet 58 km Arrowsmith Stage – working their way back up the field to 24th by the end.
Also on Leg 1 Colin Byrne and Paul Stoopman suffered a split cylinder liner in the Alfa GTV – with a big family team to help and two screwdrivers to fish out the liner, they were going again the next day, but also at the back of the field.
With the favourite out, the HTCAV Championship was anyone’s and Pete and Sari wanted it to be theirs in the Jensen CV8. By the end of Leg 2 they were leading the Freestones by over a minute with Woody a skinny 21 secs further back.
Then came the real aggression. The fist fight around the tangled web of forestry roads in North East Tas had seen the young crews surge forward and Andy White and Ash Yelds in the Amazon were now being closely followed by the Darren Meyer-David Redgrove HQ and the flying Datsun 1200 of Zac Caudo and Matt Copeland, which had both got ahead of the our XU1. The other HQ with Champion Brett Osborn at the wheel was right on our clacker …and the Galaxie not far behind them.
Leg 3 would be a huge test from Launceston to Strahan with two stages over 30 kms and two over 20 kms. By the end in Strahan the Ullrichs had a massive seven minutes on the Freestones and Woody had closed up behind. The Amazon had moved forward but still had the HQ and the Datto 1200 only seconds away. Darren Meyer’s time in the HQ without notes on the 33 km Rinadeena stage was 3rd best behind only Pete Ullrich and Andy Medieke. On the downside, Colin Byrne and Paul Stoopman had gone off heavily in the Alfa and were out.
The alarm rang at 5.15 am for Leg 4, a day which was going to have a massive impact on TT14. Groping through the dark in soaking wet and near freezing temperatures to find parc ferme was a test in itself. Getting the race cars started was another – not to mention seeing out of steamed up glass. The first two stages were an hour away through fog and rain and dark and when we got to the remote, blasted heath, they were wet and covered in fresh gravel topping. The Galaxie bowed out on this no-grip surface.
But the real party pooper was the Murchison stage: Hellyer in reverse and like falling headlong down a spiral staircase. First off was Darren Meyer, who chose a spot right alongside a 308GTB to make a nose dive into the scrub. A bit further on was Zac, the poor little Datto well off the road. It seemed that there were cars off every few corners.
Another nightmare stage was Rianna, a new version of this infamous bit of road which spears over blind crests and through gravel strewn moss-covered corners where cows leave their shit. By the time everyone was back in Strahan, some 30 cars had been off, including Jim Richards’ Cayman in only his second ever Targa whoopsie.
As a world of treachery was forecast for the final day, the old guys were coming back, in some cases aided by fresh super softs. Of the young bloods, only Brett Osborn survived, still close behind us. Pete and Sari had saved the best of their wets and trying for an outright win and a third HTCAV Championship. Paul and Chrissy had suffered a few issues but now the car was going well and Woody and Nadg felt in the groove.
Andy White has a car control gift from God and was eying a top 10 finish and 3rd in our Championship. Ross and Jill Steuart in the Anglia were catching up their dry road power deficit in huge chunks and had every hope of edging past our XU1. Wayne Pfingst in the XU4 had shaken off the migraine and repaired the alternator which ruined their yesterday and loves the wet on his M2s. Bob Priddle and the Zeph were thriving in the low grip. This was old blokes playtime.
Leg 5 of TT14 was a very dramatic final day of an exceptionally tough event. First, there were casualties: Pete Ullrich was trying to win:
“ When we caught the Perini Porsche 911 GT3 on Murcheson he stayed in front of us in the straight stuff so I decided to pass him as well as the Aston Martin Vantage before we went up the last hill on Arrowsmith, since they had both started minutes before us. But we were on the outside line and had nowhere to go. When we hit we did a 360 in the other direction and went over the bank into a soft landing in the trees and were beached. The Jensen gave its all and I don't think it can ever repeat that performance, we pushed it harder than ever before and she had nothing left, she now requires a major mechanical rebuild and this will probably limit our events in the future”.
Captain Richard Woodward – ex-military test pilot and Qantas A380 captain – is used to managing modern technology. His 1969 Monaro has none of that but Woody has an indomitable will to win and a very professional navigator in Neil Gibson. They started the day in the freezing cold and rain of Strahan just 25 seconds behind another couple with great powers of determination in a very modern version of the Holden 215. By the end of that pouring wet 33 kilometres to Strahan, Woody and Nadg were 23 seconds ahead – and by the end, had stretched that to nearly 2 minutes.
As more cars went off in the rain and cold, the old blokes moved up with epic times in atrocious conditions. Andy finished 8th in classic and 3rd pre-73, we scrambled home 16th and 4th pre 73 with the Steuarts catching up a massive amount of time to finish only 1 minute 44 behind in 18th. The best of the young guns was Brett Osborn’s HQ just behind them. And dear Wayne Pfingst simply blasted down those legendary Leg 5 stages in the XU4, showing all of us how a good Queenslander deals with wet and fog and slime with some gutsy top 15 times. Although Bob Priddle’s Zephyr is ahead of him in P9 thanks to a fast and consistent drive in a vastly improved weapon.
So a win for the old timers in atrocious conditions but a warning from the young ones that they have the talent, the determination and the energy to take over. OK, they might not have the experience of the stages, knowing when to push and when to cruise and they might be in modest equipment. But the new generation of historic touring car racers is here and wants to win. Thank God for that!
LJ Torana wins Rookie Rally
Plumber Sam Livesley from near Dromana and his locally prepared black LJ (prepared like a Group N car but with a five-speed) won the 2014 Rookie Rally, navigated by Tasmanian James Goodchap. It was their first motor sport event and they beat three other much faster competitors – a WRX STI, an R32 and a Gemini. How? Well, to finish first, you have to finish and that is what Sam and James did better than the others in a remarkable ‘Stephen Bradbury’ result.
The Gemini was out on the 4th stage, the R32 missed all of Leg 2 and the WRX missed all the Leg 1 stages and came back on Leg 2 to put in top 10 modern times but to no avail. The 72 Torana finished every stage, albeit breaking a diff centre and having to rebuild it overnight. So they won and their prize is an entry to the Targa Wrest Point in 2015. We were all there for the podium awards and gave them a cheer and a clap – hoping this is the start of something big.