Twenty-fifth anniversary road rally produces spirited contest.
MATT Close has won Targa Tasmania for the first time, outpacing the largest field ever assembled for the landmark event, the 25th anniversary edition, and by an emphatic margin of 6m 41s.
It was Close’s 12th shot at Australia’s premier tarmac rally and the triumph came after a tense and spirited contest with arch-rival and previous winner Jason White.
White retired his new Dodge Viper with engine failure on the lengthy Mount Arrowsmith run from Strahan to Hobart.
Driving a 2015 Porsche 911 GT3 shared with co-driver Cameron Reeves in the high-performance GT2 class, Close was always in the fight, but the big Viper had proved impossible to see off - until the big V10 gave up on the penultimate day.
Even then, victory didn’t come easily for Close, despite his nine-minute buffer at the start of the day.
An early scare on the opening stage of a damp final day when he got sideways was followed by a flat tyre on the second-last stage. But Close kept it together to take his first victory.
“We had a bit of a fright on the Tinderbox Stage with a big moment and then three kays into Pelverata one of our rear tyres blew out,” Close said.
“We had a relatively good lead, but you never know.
“It was a very stressful hour – we got in before the sweep car and within our late time, but you just don’t need that.
“It’s taken me 12 Targas to win – I hope it doesn’t take another 12 for my next one.”
The battle for the minor placings was headed by Hobart surgeon Michael Pritchard in a Dodge Viper.
Seven times TT winner Jim Richards charged through the final day’s six stages in his Porsche Cayman GT4 to finish in third place, but some four minutes adrift of Pritchard.
And motoring journalist Mike Sinclair put in a heroic drive in his Renault Megane to claim fourth place in GT2 showroom two-wheel drive).
Dominant in the GT4 competition was the fast and versatile sometime gravel-rally ace Steve Glenney, who raced away to an easy 3m 16s win in his Subaru WRX STI over the pre-event favourite, Tony Quinn in a Lamborghini Huracan.
Glenney’s victory in GT4 was comprehensive, but only came after he swapped seats on day two with Ben Newman and slipped behind the steering wheel.
“It’s been a bit weird having started the event in the navigator’s seat and taking over driving after Ben (Newman) had blurry vision, but it’s great to win,” he said.
Final results of Targa Tasmania (provisional):
Wrest Point GT
1. Matt Close/Cameron Reeves, 2015 Porsche GT3,
2. Michael Pritchard/Gary Mourant, 2016 Dodge Viper ACR, +6m41s
3. Jim Richards/Barry Oliver, 2015 Porsche GT4, +11m18s
1. Leigh Achterberg/Greg Fitzgerald, 1982 Porsche 944
Country Club GT4
1. Steve Glenney/Tim Kulhanek, 2008 Subaru STi
Shannons Classic GT
1. Jon Siddins/Gina Siddins, 1970 Datsun 240Z,
Spirit of Tasmania and Duttons Garage Early Modern
1. Andrew Bollom/Lee Challoner-Miles, 1995 Mazda RX-7
RDA Brakes Modern
1. Brendan Winterbourn/Anthony Chudleigh, 2011 Mitsubishi Evolution X,
1. Wayne Clark/Trevor Berriman, 1938 Dodge Speedster Special
Budget GT Sports Trophy
1. Jeff Beable/Nerida Beable, 2000 Nissan Skyline GT-R N1
1st Classic: Simon Froude/Jason Powning, 1973 Porsche 911 Carrera RSR +33:14
Budget TSD Trophy
1. Darryl Marshall/Andrew Marshall, 2002 Ford Falcon Ute Pursuit 250, 102pts
Who do you think deserves to win the 2017 COTY title? Cast your vote for a chance to win $1,000.
Sign up here to receive the latest round-up of Wheels news, reviews and video highlights straight to your inbox each week.