Targa Tasmania is billed as the world’s greatest tarmac rally. It is an International event with more than 300 entries in two basic categories, Classic and Modern. By the way, a tarmac rally means it is all paved, and to win you have to stay on the pavement. I can confirm that.
Our car competed with the Classic cars, and we found out first hand how fast these rally cars really are. There is rarely a straight section in a competitive stage longer than 250 meters. Most straight sections are 50-100 meters long, punctuated by crests and turns anywhere from gentle bends to tight hairpins. The fast guys just keep it hammered, the navigators giving the drivers a heads up on what is on the other side of every crest. It’s very hard to develop that trust on your first time over these roads. From the driver’s seat, a crest followed by an immediate hairpin (with spectators lining the road facing traffic) looks just like a crest followed by 100 meters of straight road.
The event covers about 2200 kilometers over 5 days, with about 400 of that in timed competition over 43 separate stages. Some of the stages are only a couple of kilometers long through city streets, and some are upwards of 50 kilometers long over mountain roads.
This was my first rally experience, but hopefully it will not be my last. It was the most fun I have ever had in a car. A successful effort at Targa Tasmania requires an experienced rally driver, an experienced rally navigator and a car set up to take the unique abuses of this event. Unfortunately, we had none of the above, but in spite of that, the Duntov LightWeight was 8 minutes ahead of second place in class on the 30th stage when a mechanical malfunction led to a confrontation with a steel cable fence. Fortunately, no one was hurt, and the damage to the car was not that serious, but it was enough to end our rally.
We found that our road race shocks were not up to repeatedly flying off the ground and slamming down on the pavement. We blew up and replaced two shocks early in the event, but the third one happened in a fast downhill section of a long mountain run, and that was that.
I came home with a great admiration for Australians in general and this event in particular. My hat is off to my new mates in Australia.