Targa Tasmania – All good things must end

Targa is over for another year.  Covering Dan’s tilt has meant that I’ve been more involved with Targa than ever before.  Somehow, waiting around in the freezing cold and rain for cars to whiz by you at plenty-km/h grows on you.  I think I have the Targa bug!!

Today’s entry has to be a 2-for one as I didn’t update yesterday.  Day 5 of the competition took the cars from Hobart, north to the midlands town of Ross, then further north for a quick lap of Symmons Plains raceway and then off west for the finish at Burnie.  The day included the hazardous Riana stage.  In addition to the very challenging roads to be conquered in the final two days of competition, the weather set in and saw consistent wet conditions and even snow in places.

The big question was always going to be whether Dan’s new gearbox would be up to the task.  If you haven’t read yesterday’s instalment, Dan missed several stages on Day 4 due to a gearbox that wouldn’t let him out of fifth gear.  A quick change was performed overnight and whilst it got him to the start for Day 5, there was some doubt in my mind as to whether it would get him to the end.

Well, it did.  Sure it was spewing out gearbox oil and had to be topped up at every stop, but it got there.  Dan and Roger’s main aim was to be back at Wrest Point in Hobart on the final day to collect their finisher’s medal.  That meant making sure the car was fit to go the distance.  This new gearbox, being a total unknown quantity, would have to be handled with care.

Day 6 saw the return journey from Burnie to Hobart via Tasmania’s west coast.  This area is rugged, mountainous and the road is a twisting, turning ribbon that ensures that even the best drivers have to take care at all times.  These two, Tony Quinn and Keith Wenn, were in the top 5 in the modern category overnight but tempted fate on the run back to Hobart and receive exactly the same prize as a guy out on the first day – nothing.  Still they’re happy.

The race claimed a few cars in the last 2 days.  I got myself to the Ellendale stage, the second-last stage of the whole event.  It’s not likely to be a pivotal stage as the base time is pretty generous.  But you’ve still got to get through it, which is what this guy in the Falcon found out.

There are 44 stages in Targa Tasmania.  Imagine doing 42.9 of them and then this happens.  Grrrr.  click to enlarge

About halfway through the stage an ambulance went through and the cars stopped coming for around 15 minutes, so we new something had happened.  The cars started up again, but I never thought they’d leave a car in a ditch like that.  Thankfully no-one was injured, a testament to the safety precautions required by the organisers.

I was pleased to see Dan and Roger come through in the 99 – it meant that the gearbox had held up OK and they were still in with a chance of finishing.  Sorry there’s no photo up yet, but I got them with the film camera and have to get it printed tomorrow.

After the leg finished I hightailed it for the hour trip back to Hobart and down to Wrest Point where the presentations were taking place.  Unfortunately Dan and Roger had already been through by the time I got there, but I called up quickly to his hotel room to offer my congratulations.  The all-important finisher’s medallion was sitting on the bed and Dan was still wearing the racing suit.  He was pretty pleased with getting through it.  And well he should be.  Plenty of good cars didn’t.

There’s still the question as to how much the changeover gearbox will cost.  And the question of whether the gearbox will still hang on further another 300+ kilometers to get Dan to the ferry so he can get back home.  All those hurdles will be overcome in the next few days and then he can sit back and savour the fact that he entered, and finished, an international tarmac rally.

I’d like to thank Dan for allowing me to tag along and observe all this from close up.  I haven’t always been able to bring the level of detail that I’d wish, but it’s been a fun ride anyway.  Wouldn’t have missed it for the world. 

Targa’s given me some wonderful experiences this year.  When else will I have the chance to see 2 Lamborghinis in Tasmania, let alone a wrecked one!?  It’s not often you get such a wonderful collection of machines and people all in the one place and all so very accessible for just the cost of the fuel it takes to get to wherever you want to watch it from.

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